New Rules for Air Traffic Controllers: More Rest Between Shifts (but no Naps)

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On Sunday, the Federal Aviation Administration announced that it is implementing new anti-fatigue rules to keep air traffic controllers from falling asleep while working—but Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood emphasized that carefully controlled naps, which some scientists have proposed as a solution, will not be part of the new plan. "On my watch, controllers will not be paid to take naps," he said on Fox News Sunday.

Here's USA Today with more details on the new rules:

Stung by the sixth incident involving a sleeping or unresponsive controller this year -- this time at a large facility in Miami early Saturday morning -- the Federal Aviation Administration announced that controllers would be given at least nine hours off between shifts instead of the current eight-hour minimum. Controllers also will be prohibited from switching shifts with another employee unless they have had at least nine hours off.

FAA managers at air-traffic facilities will also be working more late-night and early-morning shifts to better monitor the times when employees are most likely to be fatigued and fall asleep, the agency said.

The moves are among a dozen recommendations produced earlier this year by a joint committee of FAA management and the controllers' union, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), according to a summary of the group's work obtained by USA TODAY.

The shift changes will address a common weekly schedule in which a controller compacts five shifts into less than four days. On the final day of the week, a controller typically would work from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., leave work for eight hours and then return at 10 p.m. to work an overnight shift.

Read the full story at USA Today.

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Daniel Fromson, a former associate editor at The Atlantic, is a writer based in Washington, D.C. He writes regularly for The Washington Post. His work has also appeared in Harper's Magazine, New York, and Slate.

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