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Shaheen Urges FAA Administrator Whitaker to Conduct a Thorough Assessment of Safety Measures to Better Protect Air Traffic Controllers

(Washington, DC) - Today, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) sent a letter to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Michael Whitaker urging the FAA to conduct a thorough assessment of potential measures to mitigate stressful work conditions for air traffic controllers. A New York Times investigation, as well as a report issued by the National Airspace Safety Review Team (SRT) last month, found that long hours and irregular work schedules contribute to fatigue, deteriorated mental health and increased substance misuse among these vital workers. 

In part, Senator Shaheen wrote: “In particular, it is critical that the FAA implement recommendations included in the report to address understaffing of certified professional controllers. As the SRT reports, current staffing levels have led to historic overtime rates – leading to increased fatigue and mental health concerns that have resulted in preventable human errors.” 

Shaheen continued: “In addition to the assessment conducted by the SRT, I urge the FAA to thoroughly review measures in place to address controller fatigue, burnout and general physical and mental wellbeing. The personal accounts reported by the New York Times reflect a dire level of occupational stress that imperils the health of every controller employed by the FAA and jeopardizes the safety of America’s traveling public. These accounts must be treated seriously and met with a focused effort to address unsustainable controller workload and increase mental health resources and support.” 

The letter can be read in its entirety here

Earlier this year, Shaheen wrote former FAA Acting Administrator Billy Nolen about the issue of workforce shortages as airports across the country faced multiple runway incursion incidents. In June, Shaheen introduced legislation to address air traffic controller staffing and increase transparency in their hiring process.