Planes wait while controller takes potty breakFirst off I know an air traffic controller who just retired, he wanted to "get out" before it got any worse. His wife says that they are stressed to their limit, understaffed and suffer from tremedous fatique (they also get to fly down to Florida every year for a hell of a family vacation, but that's neither here nor there).
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Two airliners had to circle for 18 minutes and a plane ferrying human lungs for transplant was briefly delayed Friday while an airport's lone air traffic controller took a bathroom break, the controller's union said.
The union on Tuesday cited the Friday incident at the Manchester, New Hampshire, airport as evidence that air traffic control facilities are understaffed.
"There should never be one person in the tower, because it's not safe," said Doug Church, spokesman for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. "It's just added proof that the system is stretched to its limits, and these are the type of things that are happening."
Federal Aviation Administration officials responded that staffing is sufficient, that the bathroom break was handled in accordance with policy, and that travelers were not endangered or unduly inconvenienced.
While drawing vastly different conclusions about the significance of the event, the FAA and the union gave details that generally matched.
. . .
"It's the FAA's position that the staffing that was present at Manchester was sufficient to safely handle arrivals and departures at that time of the evening," Peters said. "He was only gone for 12 minutes, so while there may have been a slight delay in the aircraft landing, certainly the controller did what he had to do."
. . .
The FAA and the controllers' union have skirmished repeatedly in recent months about staffing levels at airports.
The union says controllers are often forced to work overtime, contributing to fatigue, which results in safety lapses. But the FAA says most overtime is voluntary and said instances of involuntary overtime are rare.
I have been to the Manchester airport. In fact my two oldest children flew out of there for what would be their last visit with their father before he died. While it is not as busy as Logan, it certainly isn't as slow as the Wichita airport.
Additionally, having Logan's air controllers double up and take on Manchester's flights for 18 minutes is not comforting at all. These people, we've entrusted with our safety, don't need any more flights dropped in their lap. Logan is a very busy airport.
So what happens when more flights are allowed onto the schedule and the skys become more crowded? Bush administration wants to do that, at the expense of our safety. We've already seen more mining disasters in the past 6 years than we had for the 12 -15 years before that. Due in large part to weaken unions, embolden companies, lax safety and absent enforcement (have you heard that OSHA is pretty much a joke now).
And really with the policticizing of all government agencies, including the CDC, do you really believe anything that comes from the FAA?