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Martin Rickett/PA
Nap time

Air traffic controllers press for nap time after spate of lapses on the job

A series of recent incidents where air traffic controllers have fallen asleep on the job has caused a furore in the US.

US AIR TRAFFIC controllers are pressing for federally approved naps during breaks whilst on duty following a recent spate of high-profile lapses in which controllers have been caught snoozing on the job.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)has been investigating instances of controllers falling asleep after it was revealed that ten air traffic controllers in the US had been fired or suspended in the past month for dozing or watching DVDs on the job.

On Thursday, two more controllers were fired after previously being suspended, the BBC reports.

One of them was a controller in Knoxville, Tennessee who had been discovered on 19 February having deliberately slept for five hours while on duty.

It was even reported that the controller had made a bed in the control tower and brought with him a pillow and blankets. “He’s been fired,” US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told PBS.

The furore has even involved the First Lady Michelle Obama whose plane was forced to abort its landing on Monday after it was allowed come too close to a military cargo plane which was landing ahead of it in an apparent air traffic controller error.

The incidents have already led to Hank Krakowski, head of the FAA, resigning earlier this month and the aviation agency is now conducting a “top to bottom” of the US’ entire air traffic system.

The FAA also announced that it was putting an additional air traffic controller on the midnight shift at 27 control towers around the US.

Now the union representing some 15,000 controllers wants so called “controlled napping” to be put in place, reports the Wall Street Journal.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association have said that their recommendations are based on scientific research that has previously been advocated by NASA.

The controlled napping would be part of a rest period that would potentially last more than two hours where air traffic controllers would be allowed to sleep and slowly regain alertness before resuming their duties.

But the notion has been dismissed by Secretary LaHood who said that the government wasn’t going to pay employees to sleep, adding:

I don’t expect to walk into a break room and see controllers napping, period.

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