Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Fourth Air Traffic Controller Fired for Sleeping on the Job

SAN NARCISO, Calif. -- In the wake of three highly publicized incidents of air traffic controllers falling asleep on the job, another controller has been discharged, this time at a local tower in San Narciso County, California. Several members of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) have pressured regulators to consider allowing controlled naps during working hours to combat fatigue, citing numerous studies on the subject. But operators of the county’s municipal airstrip called the proposal ridiculous.

“These guys sit around in chairs all day watching radar screens,” explained Hank Serstound, a local aviation official who defended the termination of the controller. “I hear a lot about stress and fatigue in the media, but I don’t know where it comes from. The pilots are the ones flying the planes. All controllers have to do is tell them which runway to land on. A monkey could do it. And if I could train a monkey to speak and snort meth, I’d be staffing the tower with chimps who wouldn’t fall asleep. Look, this isn’t exhausting work; it’s white collar desk jockeying.”

According to Serstound, controllers have become entitled, overpaid government workers out to bilk the system: “We already pay them to take breaks. We -- and by ‘we,’ I mean tax payers -- already pay controllers for an hour lunch for every 90 hours worked. Hell, we even allow them to smoke on company time. Now they want catnaps? No way. That’s what the coffee in the break room’s for. And do you have any idea how much that coffee costs on a no-bid government contract? Let me put it this way: if I fired two controllers, I’d have enough petty cash to buy another bag of Sanka. Given all the sleeping these guys do, I’d say the tax payers wasted a crap load of money on unused coffee.”

San Narciso County Municipal Airfield (SNCMA) officials have yet to release the terminated controller’s name or specific details about the incident. Hank Serstound told The Bennington Vale Evening Transcript that the controller was discovered sleeping when a tower supervisor phoned the man’s house a few hours after he had completed his scheduled shift.

“The guy’s wife answers the phone,” Serstound said. “The chief of the tower had a supervisor call to see if the controller would be willing to come back in and fill an open spot on the grave shift. And this woman says that her husband can’t come to the phone because he went to bed right after getting home from work. Well, like I said, we don’t pay these guys to sleep. On call 24/7. That’s the job, and that’s what they signed up for.”