Tag Archives: airplanes

The pursuit of a position in the profession of plane procedures

The most modern facility we've got. Credit: Wikipedia.

Pompous pricks! (Clarification: I’m not talking about the controllers here.)

How y’all feeling about the “friendly” skies right about now? There have only been six or seven incidents of air traffic controllers found sleeping and/or unresponsive on the job this year so far.

It turns out that some controllers are sleepy. And that they sometimes have to work night shifts all by themselves.

It also turns out that current rules require only eight hours of time off between shifts.

Wikipedia says:

A typical work week for a controller is an 8 hour day, 5 days per week.

So, how in the name of Zeus’ butthole do you get to any scenario where you need employees to work shifts only eight hours apart?

Unless it is a veritable emergency, there are only two possibilities. Employees doing dumb ass shift trades and managers incompetence. And the former is subject to manager approval and also an example of incompetence.

As an aside, in my experience, companies just love to treat the word “emergency” as a euphemism for gross incompetence. “What? We failed to schedule enough employees for this shift? What? We incorrectly predicted workload? Fine. This is now an ’emergency’ and we can chuck all the safety rules out the window. It’s ‘mandatory’ time, baby. Do what we say or you’re fired.”

Yes, I actually worked somewhere like that. Fucking dumb asses.

Sorry. I strayed off topic. It is being reported in the media that “some scientists” say that “carefully controlled naps” would help address controller fatigue on the job.

Ray LaHood. Credit: Wikipedia.

Cue the Secretary of Transportation, Republican Ray LaHood. He’s now being quoted all over the media as saying, “On my watch, controllers will not be paid to take naps.”

That sounds nice and hard ass. And it makes a nice sound bite, too.

Of course, that also disregards the input of said “some scientists.”

So what new anti-fatigue rules we will see? The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced this whopping change. Controllers will now be given nine hours between shifts instead of eight.

Controllers will also be prohibited from switching shifts that would result in less than nine hours between shifts.

You’re shitting me, right? That is the solution? Is this some sort of dumb ass joke?

LaHood’s quote, in more context:

On my watch, controllers will not be paid to take naps. We want to make sure they’re well rested. We want to make (sure) that in the workplace there’s the ability for them to do their job, but we’re not going to pay controllers to be napping. We’re not going to do that.

I’ll bet that “some scientists” are feeling disappointed their input was disregarded.

I might be missing the point, but what the fuck is the difference between eight and nine hours between shifts? Is that going to magically solve this problem?

In addition, FAA “managers” will now working more late-night and early-morning shifts to monitor controllers when they are most likely to be fatigued. What? They didn’t already do this? These poor managers are going to have to give up their banker’s hours? Bloody hell!

So, here’s the deal. I have a solution. It might not be favorite of these so-called “managers” who make the big bucks to make dumb ass decisions, but I’m pretty sure it will work.

Give employees a schedule that doesn’t require them to have only eight (or nine) hours between their fucking shifts.

Try that on for size, LaHood and the FAA.

I’m no scientist, but my theories show that, in general, this will result in controllers being less fatigued.

Call this one a freebie, FAA. I won’t even charge my normal consulting fee.

LandingI used to work for a shithole of a company that would do things like this. (I plan to write about this company much more. There are lots of stories.) Employees were treated like pieces of equipment. Employees were batteries to be used and then discarded. (And this was decades before The Matrix.)

It was routine to be scheduled for a #2 shift followed by a #1 shift. It happened almost every single week. A #2 shift, or the “swing” shift could end anywhere from 11pm to 1am. A #1 shift, or the “day” shift, started bright and early at 6am.

Let’s do the math. That’s five to seven hours between work shifts. And it was just a matter of routine. They didn’t even bother to declare an “emergency.” That’s just the way it was. And these employees worked around loud, heavy machinery, with forklifts zipping around the room often passing within a couple feet of clearance. Fatigue much? Tough shit.

airplane landingThe other thing they did was alternate shift by work week. One week you’d have #2 shifts and the next you’d have #1’s. This wreaked havoc on me. It made me physically ill and I had an extremely hard time getting my sleep.

Don’t forget you’ve got to commute between shifts, too. If you leave only 30 minutes away that’s an hour shot to hell. And, speaking from my experience, I couldn’t just walk in the door, hit the bed, and fall fast asleep. It didn’t work like that. I’d be “wired” after a work shift and would need like an hour to wind down. And the more I knew I needed my sleep, the less I’d actually get.

It was a fucking travesty of justice.

To be fair, most situations that call for only one controller in a tower are on the mid-shift where there is very little air traffic, so the danger is low. Similarly, aircraft land at airports with no control towers at all every single day. So it is generally safe but that’s not the point.

Either way, whether you are a lone ranger air-traffic controller working the night shift by yourself or a lowly grunt working in a production department, you deserve a humane work schedule. There is no reason to allow rules that provide only a minimum of eight or nine hours between work shifts.

TED: Ideas Worth Sharing

“Work-life balance, says Nigel Marsh, is too important to be left in the hands of your employer. At TEDxSydney, Marsh lays out an ideal day balanced between family time, personal time and productivity — and offers some stirring encouragement to make it happen.”

This is my “P” post for the April 2011 “A to Z Blogging Challenge.”