Feds offer solutions for sleeping air traffic controllers

New signs will deter sleeping air traffic controller, officials say.

The Federal Aviation Administration is announcing new steps designed to address recent controversies over air traffic controllers caught sleeping on the job.

“Air traffic controllers are responsible for the safety of millions of air passengers, and it’s imperative that we do more to ensure they’re doing their jobs,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt.  “The first step is to issue new rules rather than directly address the problematic individuals by firing them.”

One such rule will require additional signs posted throughout control towers warning controllers that they must be rested before they come to work.  The signs will use larger text and fewer words than older versions in order to catch the attention of heavy-eyed workers.  The FAA will also conduct a two-week training course on how workers can get more sleep during their time off.

“We’ll be suggesting ideas for getting more sleep, such as shutting your eyelids for longer periods of time or reading the training course manual,” Babbitt said.

The estimated cost of the new signs and training course is $400 billion in the first year.

Another idea is to simply threaten workers with punishment if they’re caught sleeping.  Officials noted that controllers would not actually be fired, just threatened – severely.

“The best way to drive home the point that sleeping on the job will not be tolerated is to anonymously threaten workers with severe harm if they get caught,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood in outlining the ambitious plan.  “If you’re lying awake night after night worrying about your physical safety, it will make you far less likely to sleep when you come to work in the morning.”

Ed Chapman, a spokesman with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association that represents the workers, said during an interview on Fox News Sunday that the recent news “literally keeps me and my fellow controllers up all night,” before immediately retracting the statement.

None of the proposed changes will go into effect until mandatory negotiations with the NATCA.  Officials expect this to take several years.

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