Air Traffic Controller Error Spike May Be Misleading
A report showing a huge spike in reported air traffic controller errors has some passengers worried about the safety of passenger flights, and Congress is looking to take action. Reported errors have nearly doubled, rising from 947 reported errors in 2009 to 1900 reported errors in 2010. But don’t cancel your flight just yet. Tempe aviation lawyer Mike Pearson has stated that those numbers could be misleading due to a few changes in the airline industry and the air traffic controller profession.
Pearson acknowledges human error is inevitable; thousands of planes carry passengers each day, and there is a lot that could potentially go wrong. Even though air traffic controllers are always observed closely on the job by several sets of eyes, mistakes can happen. But human error may not be solely responsible for the spike in reported errors. Pearson points to a memo released by the FAA last year, which changed the rules for reporting errors and sought to remove the fear of punishment associated with reporting errors. What this means is that more errors—or even the potential for errors—can be reported without fear. So the spike could, in part, be due to more errors actually being reported rather than committed. Additionally, Pearson said that new technology being used by air traffic controllers to determine plane proximity could have also contributed to the rise.
Pearson states firmly that passengers should not be afraid to board a plane due to these numbers. And, although the number of reported errors has risen, only a small percentage of those errors were categorized as serious.
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