NASA partners with FAA to study fatigue

Washington DC
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FAA and its air traffic controllers union have partnered with NASA to study causes and effects of fatigue on controllers.

In an employee update FAA says fatigue risks have been frequently referenced by the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) during the last two decades.

Earlier this year FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt and National Air Traffic Controllers Association president Paul Rinaldi signed a formal joint agreement encouraging controller participation in the study.

The research being conducted by the NASA Ames Research Centre includes a survey of all the roughly 15,000 US controllers and a study of objective measures of sleep and alertness. FAA says all operational controllers are allowed to use duty time to take the survey.

The survey specifically inquires about hours worked in a week, watch schedule patterns, the amount of break time taken, workload and stress-related fatigue, sleep patterns and fatigue self-assessments.

FAA explains 3,000 controllers have completed the survey during the first two months of the study.

Roughly 208 Controller volunteers have agreed to participate in a study of individual sleep and wake patterns and objectively measured alertness.

During a two week period participants wear an actigrpah watch that measures activity and sleep periods over a 24h cycle, maintain a sleep and activity log and take alertness test three times during each shift.

Controllers at four locations - Chicago Centre, New York Centre, Washington Centre and the JFK Tower - have already completed the objective study. Staff in Baltimore, Washington Dulles, Philadelphia International airport and the Potomac Tracon are scheduled to complete the study this month.