FAA rejigs veteran controller duties as scrutiny of controller conduct continues

Washington DC
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The US FAA is repositioning some of its most veteran air traffic controllers as part of heightened scrutiny of controller staffing and training after several high-profile instances of controllers sleeping on the job.

Three managers are being named to oversee what the agency says are critical air traffic roles. Walt Cochran is heading Terminal operations, responsible for all airport towers and Tracons - approach and departure control. The new leader of en-route and oceanic operations is Chris Metts while Glen Martin is assuming air traffic manager duties at the Cleveland air route control centre, moving from the position of deputy of air traffic at the Chicago centre. FAA characterises the Cleveland centre as one of its more complex facilities.

Three controllers in Knoxville, Tennessee, Miami, Florida and Seattle, Washington have been fired for sleeping on the job, and FAA says the individuals have a due process right to respond to the firing.

Earlier this month, the FAA opted to place an additional air traffic controller on the midnight shift at control towers and facilities previously staffed with only one controller.

FAA has also assembled and named members of an independent review panel to evaluate controller training, qualifications and placement processes. Members of the panels named by the agency are Michael Barr, University of Southern California Aviation, Safety & Security programme; Tim Brady, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University; Garth Koleszar, National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA); Michael New, United Airlines; and Julia Pounds, FAA.

FAA expects to receive a panel report sometime in the fourth quarter.

After the multiple sleeping controller events surfaced, FAA and Natca launched a call to action, which entails meeting with controllers at facilities nationwide to stress adherence to the highest professional standards. So far staff from FAA and Natca have visited facilities in 20 locations.