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NTSB Notes Improvements Made by NATCA, FAA to Address Fatigue and Professional Standards - (11/14/2012)

CONTACT: Doug Church, 301-346-8245

WASHINGTON – The National Air Traffic Controllers Association said today that it is pleased with the decision by the National Transportation Safety Board to drop fatigue and pilot-and-air-traffic-controller professionalism from its “most wanted” list of transportation safety issues for the next year.

            NATCA President Paul Rinaldi said the NTSB’s decision validates the progress that NATCA and the Federal Aviation Administration are making on both issues. Rinaldi added that the news strengthens NATCA’s resolve to continue addressing both important topics with the FAA in a collaborative manner and keeping the U.S. National Airspace System the safest in the world.

            “Our sole focus is the safety of the system. Air traffic controllers and other safety professionals that we represent are fully committed to continuing to meet the highest professional standards,” Rinaldi said. “I want to thank Chairman Deborah Hersman and the NTSB staff for their commitment to aviation safety and putting a spotlight on two critically important safety issues. We have listened closely and we have worked collaboratively with the FAA to make improvements. But our work is never done. These are career-long commitments.”

            NATCA and the FAA have mitigated issues related to fatigue by:

-- Agreeing to schedule changes, including the addition of a key extra hour of nighttime rest – to provide for a minimum of nine total hours – between an evening shift and a daytime shift the next day.

-- Raising each safety employee’s awareness of fatigue. Each employee also is now required to complete a three and a half hour training program, which addresses fatigue, its effects and how to manage personal fatigue risks in a 24/7 operation.

-- Signing an agreement this year to implement a scientifically-based and data-driven Fatigue Risk Management System, which was recommended by a NATCA-FAA working group. It will analyze, identify and recommend additional mitigation strategies.

            On the issue of professional standards, NATCA and the FAA, for the first time, are collaborating to institute a National Professional Standards Program for air traffic controllers and other safety-related positions. The program’s development began in 2010 to complement and support the Air Traffic Safety Action Program. The goal of the program is to promote and maintain the highest degree of professional conduct among employees while also monitoring performance, maintaining accountability and recognizing examples of exceptional professionalism.

This peer-to-peer solutions program is the first of its kind in the U.S. air traffic controller profession and is just a few months away from a complete rollout across the National Airspace System, with over 318 Professional Standards Committee members from 202 facilities trained and working on issues.

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The National Air Traffic Controllers Association represents over 20,000 highly skilled controllers, engineers and other safety-related professionals.

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