FAA In Gross Violation Of Federal Air Regulations Forcing Controller To Work Over 13 Hours

The NATCA reports this week that an Air Traffic Controller at Syracuse Tower was forced to work 13 hours and 40 minutes in a single shift. An event that is in gross violation of federal air regulations and the FAA's own internal order governing safe working limits. The shift commencing at 2:20 p.m. and ending at 4 a.m.

The shift occurred on December 4 when a controller that was scheduled to work the midnight shift called in sick due to a broken ankle. Due to short staffing, no one was available for overtime and the decision was made by the tower's FAA manager to extend a controller from the afternoon shift until 4 a.m.

This situation is a perfect example of controller fatigue, which is an ongoing issue with the FAA. So much so it has made international headlines. My Life And Air Traffic Control reported only last week on an article from The Age about US investigators warning of a runway crash.

NATCA Eastern Regional Vice President Phil Barbarello said "This is a prime example of how staffing is really hurting us physically," and that "This decision was absolutely ridiculous and extremely unsafe."

And I'm sure no one will disagree with him. My Life And Air Traffic Control contacted the FAA to ask their feelings on the issue. At the time of publishing no comment had been received.

Syracuse Tower will lose another four veteran controllers in January due to retirement, leaving a grand total of 16 fully trained and certified controllers on the roster. This number representing just one-half of the qualified air traffic controllers it had just a few years ago.