NTSB Chair Homendy Praises FAA action on Air Traffic Controller Fatigue


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​​NTSB called for more rest after 2006 crash that killed 49​

​WASHINGTON (April 19, 2024) – National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy praised FAA’s move Friday to require a​ir traffic controllers to receive at least 10 hours off between shifts and 12 hours off before a midnight shift.

“The science around the dangers of fatigue is clear,” Homendy said. “The safety of our skies depends on air traffic controllers who are well-trained and well-rested. This move by the FAA to give overworked and overscheduled air traffic controllers proper rest between shifts is the right thing to do.”

The National Transportation Safety Board has long been concerned about the effects of fatigue on air traffic controllers’ performance. This concern was again raised in connection with the Aug. 27, 2006, accident involving Comair flight 5191 that crashed during takeoff from the wrong runway in Lexington, Kentucky, killing 49. The investigation revealed that that the air traffic controller who cleared the accident airplane for takeoff had worked a shift from 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. the day before the accident, then returned nine hours later to work the accident shift from 11:30 p.m. until the time of the accident at 6:07 a.m. the next morning. The controller stated that his only sleep in the 24 hours before the accident was a two-hour nap the previous afternoon between these two shifts.

The NTSB also investigated a March 23, 2011, incident at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport when an air traffic controller fell asleep on the job. Investigators found the probable cause to be “the tower controller's loss of consciousness induced by lack of sleep, fatigue resulting from working successive midnight shifts, and air traffic control scheduling practices.”

“We have been calling for action on controller fatigue for more than 18 years,” Homendy said. “I am pleased to see today’s action by Administrator Whitaker, although much more work remains to be done.”

To report an incident/accident or if you are a public safety agency, please call 1-844-373-9922 or 202-314-6290 to speak to a Watch Officer at the NTSB Response Operations Center (ROC) in Washington, DC (24/7).