ATM Modernization, Commercial

Babbitt Reassures Congress on ATC Safety

By Tish Drake | May 26, 2011
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FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt reassured Congress that the agency is addressing the recent troubles in air traffic control towers and reiterated the steps FAA is taking to reduce air traffic controller incidents.

Testifying before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety & Security on Air Traffic Control Safety Oversight on Tuesday, Babbitt said FAA has made "significant changes to longtime scheduling practices to reduce the possibility of fatigue—including establishing a minimum of nine hours between shifts. And we will do more," including adding a second controller on the midnight shift in facilities where there was only one and changing management in "critical positions to ensure that we have the right people in the right places."

"We’ve also found it necessary to terminate three controllers who slept on the job. This type of behavior is completely unacceptable," he said.

Babbitt attributed to the increase in incidents to an error reporting system, Air Traffic Safety Action Program (ATSAP), instituted in 2008 and designed to foster a voluntary, cooperative, non-punitive environment for the open reporting of safety of flight concerns by FAA employees.

"We are gathering more information than we ever had previously – and that data will allow for more informed decisions moving forward to enhance the safety of our system ... Nobody likes to see operational errors, especially me. But we are getting the data we need to improve safety," he said.

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