There could be increasing pressure for the FAA to allow controllers a set nap-time while working night shifts. Apparently this is standard practice in some other countries, with cots even being provided for sleeping during breaks.
However, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s vehement rejection of this approach may prevent such a step in the U.S. LaHood’s knee-jerk response to allowing nap breaks was essentially “not on my watch.” Strong words, but perhaps he should have waited for the new reports and recommendations before painting himself into a corner. What does he say if that is exactly what is recommended?
Here is an article from the Toronto Star that describes Nav Canada’s approach to workplace naps for controllers and fatigue management. Apparently Germany and Japan also make provisions for sleep breaks. The Boston Globe also weighed in on this subject in an editorial.
Flight Safety Foundation President Bill Voss has criticized LaHood’s apparently inflexible stance, suggesting that it is politically motivated. This AP story has the full Voss quote, and also quite a bit of evidence that sleeping on the job is a long-standing problem.
Of course, there are other, simpler, solutions. This coffee company says it has been getting a great response from its offer to send free coffee samples to controllers to help them stay awake.Even that is probably more helpful than pushing out FAA Chief Operating Officer Hank Krakowski, a respected, competent leader who has done a great job implementing political directives that have been forced on him. It’s all very well to hold the boss accountable, but sometimes in doing so you run the risk of damaging the organization just when it needs strong leadership. My personal opinion – bad move, Mr. Secretary.