US air traffic controllers told to 'wake up!'

The US Federal Aviation Administration changed air traffic control work schedules on Saturday, acknowledging it has a widespread problem with fatigue after another controller fell asleep on duty, this time in Miami.

"We are taking important steps that will make a real difference in fighting air traffic controller fatigue. But we know we will need to do more," the FAA's administrator, Randy Babbitt, said.

Mr Babbitt and Paul Rinaldi, the president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, were to begin visiting air traffic control facilities yesterday to hear what controllers have to say and to remind them that sleeping on the job won't be tolerated. Their first stop is Atlanta, home of the world's busiest airport.

The latest incident – the fifth disclosed by the FAA since late March – happened just before 5am on Saturday at a busy regional radar facility that handles high-altitude air traffic for much of Florida, portions of the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean.

According to a preliminary review of air traffic tapes, the controller did not miss any calls from aircraft and there was no impact on flight operations, the FAA said. The controller, who was working an overnight shift, has been suspended.

Before the shift began, controllers were given a briefing on professionalism and the importance of reporting to work fit for duty, the FAA said.