A day to Thai one on, defending Dylan, the creative process explored, slave trade in the classroom, and Patton Oswalt Radio.
That's a loon on Lake Calhoun this morning, taken by MPR producer Jayne Solinger. It's a very lonely loon, but a loon nonetheless. Its arrival, of course, is another sign that spring has taken hold in flyover country.
In other news, several inches of snow are expected this weekend.(7 Comments)
The head of the nation's air traffic control group at the Federal Aviation Administration, fell on his sword today. Hank Krakowski "resigned" in the wake of several incidents in which controllers working the overnight shift fell asleep.
"Over the last few weeks we have seen examples of unprofessional conduct on the part of a few individuals that have rightly caused the traveling public to question our ability to ensure their safety," said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt in a statement. "This conduct must stop immediately."
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, however, gets the award for inappropriate tough talk when he said "we will not sleep" until there's good safety in the control towers.
Yesterday, the FAA said it would add a second controller to the overnight shift at 27 airports. Still unexplained by the federal aviation authorities is exactly what a second controller is supposed to do in the towers where sheer boredom may well play a part in nodding off.
Clearly, it's not a good idea for an air traffic controller to fall asleep, but how big a threat to the flying public exists at the airports named?
Ypsilanti, Michigan is one of the 27 airports to get a second controller. The reporter in the video below said "It is so scary to think about (a controller) not being alert and awake in the tower" on the overnight shift. Number of planes landing in Ypsilanti this morning from midnight to 9 a.m.: two. Both were single-engine Cessna Caravans.
Duluth is also on the list of airports. On the overnight shift this morning, no airplanes (at least on a flight plan) landed. Only one took off (at 12:47 a.m.). It was a corporate jet operated by the Living Word International church.
Fargo, also on the list, didn't have any flights arriving between 10 p.m. last night and 6 this morning. A SkyWest (US Air) flight left for the Twin Cities around 5:30 a.m.
Here's the full list of airports:
Akron-Canton, OH (CAK)
Allegheny, PA (AGC)
Andrews AFB, MD (ADW)
Burbank, CA (BUR)
Duluth, MN (DLH)
DuPage, IL (DPA)
Fargo, ND (FAR)
Ft Lauderdale, FL (FLL)
Ft Lauderdale Executive, FL (FXE)
Ft Worth Meacham, TX (FTW)
Grant County, WA (MWH)
Kansas City Downtown, MO (MKC)
Manchester, NH (MHT)
Omaha, NE (OMA)
Ontario, CA (ONT)
Reagan National,VA (DCA)
Reno, NV (RNO)
Richmond, VA (RIC)
Sacramento, CA (SMF)
San Diego, CA (SAN)
San Juan, PR (SJU)
Terre Haute, IN (HUF)
Teterboro, NJ (TEB)
Tucson, AZ (TUS)
Willow Run, MI (YIP)
Windsor Locks, CT (BDL)
Youngstown, OH (YNG)
On Stuck Mic -- a forum for air traffic controllers -- one unidentified controller describes the problem:
'Ive been in a VFR (visual flight rules) tower during IFR (instrument flight rules) conditions during the day with NO operations going on, And there literally is nothing to do. Rather than talk to other people around you, there's not much to really keep yourself busy with since you're not really permitted to have cellphones/reading material in the tower cab. I can imagine a 40-hour week, midnight shift, no aircraft around for hours, and no one else in the tower it being hard to stay sharp on the job."
A controller in Wisconsin offers this idea:
"They should have something set up where when the pilot keys the mike, a bunch of different color lights start flashing in the tower cab and a loud bell starts ringing really fast, like when you play those games at the fair and win the grand prize."
And another controller says the two-person-in-the-tower idea makes sense. That way, he theorizes, they can take turns sleeping.
Tomorrow: An interview with an air traffic controller.
Say what you want about the Minnesota Legislature, but it's a fine example of the difference between state lawmakers and those who work in Washington.
The U.S. House of Representatives "debated" the recently-reached budget deal, but there was no give-and-take because there were virtually no congresspeople there to hear it, as this screenshot from C-SPAN shows just as the vote started this afternoon,
There's little indication having to be present and listen to people with whom the senators may disagree has any impact on one's positions, but at least they had the opportunity to hear all of the debate.(6 Comments)
NPR has rolled out a new Facebook app that -- with any luck at all -- might distract your friends from all of those quizzes that suddenly seem to be spamming things.
Andrew Phelps -- if you recognize him from the guy who created WBUR's Hubbub, you really are a public radio nerd -- writes at the Neiman Journalism Lab:
The new Facebook app called I Heart NPR asks fans to put themselves on a map with thousands of others. Users can play games, such as Name That NPR Theme Song (I earned four-of-four virtual tote bags, thank you), and then share the results with friends. Secret games will be "unlocked" with every 100,000 new users, according to Kinsey Wilson, NPR's general manager of digital media.
It's not entirely clear what the point is of the map of NPR listeners since you can only find yourself on it and most people -- especially public radio people -- already know who and where they are...
Find it here.
The U.S. House this afternoon approved the budget bill that cuts billions from federal programs. This is probably not a good time to ask for more air traffic controllers, even though the FAA says it's going to double up the number of controllers who work the midnight shift at 27 airports, including Fargo and Duluth. The FAA is trying to cut down on instances of controllers falling asleep when working alone.
"The only answer for it is bodies, and we are really expensive," retired controller Don Brown told me this afternoon.
Brown, who writes the blog , Get the Flick, says the only way the FAA can add a second controller overnight is through overtime. But that makes the problem even worse because it adds a controller who's already tired at the beginning of the shift. "You're just doubling the problem," he says.
He wrote on his blog that staffing a control tower with just one controller is "stupid." Two isn't much better.
With only two people, sooner or later you're back to working with only one. Somebody does have to go to the bathroom at some point. (You don't want to know what the guy working by himself does.) And human nature being what it is, this is the "logic" that takes over; "If I can work alone for 30 minutes, why not an hour? Or two hours? Hey! I've got an idea. You take the first half of the shift and I'll take the second half and we'll both get a much-needed nap." It happens every time. And sooner or later, most managers go along with it.
A few weeks ago, the National Transportation Safety Board issued its report on an Owatonna crash that killed eight people, singling out pilot fatigue as one cause, and pointing out that a tired person has the same reaction time as one who is legally drunk.
"Halfway through the shift, you're half drunk," says Brown.
He says the only real solution is three controllers, something he acknowledges a budget-conscious government isn't going to do.
"All of them have got to take some kind of a nap to be functional. It's just not going to happen," he says.
It was this crash at Lexington, Kentucky that first highlighted the problem of tired controllers. A ComAir flight took off on the wrong runway, and the controller, working alone, didn't notice. The runway was too short. The plane crashed. Forty-nine people died.
"This is not a job to get distracted in. This is not a job to get sleepy in and dysfunctional," Brown says.
Staying awake isn't as easy as it may sound to people who work in the daytime, he adds.
"Guys used to bring in DVD players or bring their laptops in. The FAA said, 'Hey , that's a distraction; those have got to come out of there.' You've got a guy who's sitting in front of a blank radar scope. There's nobody talking to him and there's nothing going on. And you expecting him to stay awake and alert for eight hours?"
Brown says aviation officials are waiting until the news media has another story to write about. "They're just going to wait until it goes away. This is nothing new; this has been going on for decades. Look at the Lexington crash," he said.