I recently read a report of a near miss over northern Indiana between a United Express and Midwest Airlines aircraft. It appears the incident was due to an error by Air Traffic Control.
I'm sure all the Air Traffic Controllers from FAA will be pleased to read that a Federal Aviation "Official" commented that "staffing levels were adequate despite controllers' complaints of fatigue and over work".
This comment is in complete contradiction to the following news clip I found on Youtube titled "FAA: Unsafe staffing: Air Traffic Controller Fatigue." from April 12, 2007. Government regulators say "Tired controllers are putting people in danger".
It reports on an Air Traffic Controller on his second shift in a 24 hour period, was working on only two hours sleep when an aircraft taxied onto the wrong runway last August resulting in a fatal accident killing 49 people. NTSB reports that this Kentucky crash is "hardly the only example of troubling controller fatigue".
I was also shocked to learn that Air Traffic Controllers working for the FAA can work 4, ten hour shifts in three days as long as they have an eight hour period between shifts! NTSB is urging the FAA to change the way Air Traffic Controllers are scheduled to give them longer rest periods between shifts. The FAA apparently welcomed the recommendation with a response of "Controllers need to play a role too".
My question is, if staffing levels are so adequate why are these controllers having to work constant six day weeks?
The incident on Tuesday night occurred when the Air Traffic Controller vectored the Midwest Airlines aircraft east, into the path of the United Express aircraft heading west out of Greensboro, N.C.
The only thing that saved a mid-air collision at FL250 was the aircraft's TCAS systems. The two aircraft coming within a proximity of 1.3 miles horizontally and 600ft vertically.
The required separation standard in this situation for Air Traffic Controllers here in Australia is 5 miles horizontally and at least 1000ft vertically.