A couple of Air Traffic Controllers have bee ncaught sleeping on the job and the FAA has reacted by requiring Air Traffic Controllers to get nine hours of sleep before each shift rather than eight. The pointy-haired boss in Dilbert has company at the FAA. In fact, if the pointy-haired boss left Dilbert’s company and went to work for the FAA, I believe that the intelligence level of both organizations would rise.
It is not a lack of sleep that has caused these Air Traffic Controllers to sleep on the job but the boredom of working a night shift with no activity. Any front-line supervisor worth their salt knows this. The Air Traffic Controller could have matched Rip Van Winkles’ snooze and still dropped off on a long shift with nothing happening.
There are two “real” solutions to this problem. The first is to have the Air Traffic Controller check in like a night watchman – punching a button every fifteen minutes. However, this can just limit the “snooze” to less that fifteen minutes before someone is aware that the Air Traffic Controller is asleep. The best solution is to install voice recognition software that will recognize when a pilot is calling the tower and sound a loud horn or bell. With such a system, you can let an Air Traffic Controller work a double shift because on the late night portion, he can sleep until alerted of the arrival of an aircraft. Pay regular time for the double shift since the late night shift will involve little work and you utilize your personnel to maximum advantage at a lower cost. Since it makes sense, the government won’t buy it.