April 18, 2011 / 7:30 PM / 8 years ago

Air traffic controllers not paid to nap, LaHood says

An unused air traffic controller's phone sits on counter in University Park Airport's empty control tower, unstaffed due to the U.S. Federal budget standoff, in State College, Pennsylvania, March 15, 2011. REUTERS/Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood assured the public on Monday that the Federal Administration was implementing new measures to ensure the air traffic controllers do not fall asleep on the job.

Several separate incidents have alarmed regulators and safety advocates in recent weeks, including a lone controller at Washington’s Reagan National Airport who fell asleep on March 23 with two jetliners en route.

“Paying controllers to sleep will not be part of what we do at the FAA,” LaHood said on “The Early Show” on Monday. “We’re not going to pay controllers to nap.”

FAA officials started a multi-city tour today in Atlanta to discuss new regulations on rest and scheduling with controllers and emphasize their responsibility.

“We believe that these controllers are well-trained. We believe they’re well-rested. But, we will do more. We will do what we have to do. We will not continue the kind of activity where seven controllers have fallen asleep,” LaHood said on the news broadcast.

“That’s the reason that our administrator and the president of NATCA (the National Air Traffic Controllers Association) are traveling the country to listen, to talk to controllers,” he said. “We’re going to do a top-to-bottom review of our procedures.

The new guidelines give air traffic controllers more hours off, limits the controllers ability to swap midnight shifts, and by staffing more FAA managers during late night and early morning hours.

Reporting by Wendell Marsh; Editing by Greg McCune

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