IG report: Self-reporting to stop air traffic controllers sleeping on duty needs improvement

The Federal Aviation Administration's inspector general report found that a self-reporting system used to address air traffic controllers sleeping on duty needs improvement.

The Air Traffic Safety Action Program (ATSAP) installed a self-reporting system to encourage controllers to report operational errors. But the inspector general's review found that some individuals who used the system escaped punishment for falling asleep or watching videos on the job by reporting their own errors - in short, de facto amnesty.

The report recommended that the FAA identify the root causes of the issues and find ways to prevent them from occurring in the first place. It also encouraged developing an automated component in the self-reporting system to flag repeat submitters.

The FAA has come under scrutiny over the past year for multiple reports of air traffic controllers caught asleep while at work last year due to fatigue and late-night or early-morning scheduling. It later implemented a policy allowing air traffic controllers an extra hour of break between shifts to reduce exhaustion.

But in February, a Fox 5 New York report showed air traffic controllers at Westchester County Airport apparently sleeping, texting and reading while on duty. An FAA statement said workers were allowed to use part of the air traffic tower as a break room due to a broken elevator. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Westchester County executive Rob Astorino subsequently called for an investigation.

Cristina Marcos contributed to this blog.