Fatigue in Air Traffic Control

air-traffic-controller-sleeping1-300x205Fatigue is known to be a major risk for safety in aviation. Even if an accurate quantification of the contribution of fatigue in accidents is currently impossible because fatigue is not systematically investigated by a standardised procedure, it is classified as one of the “most wanted” factors by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB): “The Safety Board has long been concerned about the effects of fatigue on persons performing critical functions in all transportation industries including flight crews, aviation mechanics, and air traffic controllers”.

Since the initial statement from NTSB recommendations, it is clear that little progress has been made by the industry to address this critical safety issue despite the large amount of available scientific knowledge. The reason is probably because fatigue is a complex concept raising issues beyond safety such as productivity and social aspects.

This paper summarises the main available scientific knowledge on fatigue, and from this body of knowledge provides some practical recommendations.

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Fatigue in air traffic control

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