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Fri, Feb 24, 2012

FAA Expected To Report Controller Errors Largely Flat In 2011

Number Had Surged Over The Previous Three Years

Sources close to a report being prepared by the FAA say it will show that the number of errors reported by air traffic controllers was nearly flat in 2011 after climbing sharply the previous three years.

The Wall Street Journal reports its sources say the number of errors reported by controllers will come in at about 1,900 for 2011, including about 50 incidents in which aircraft were close enough to cause concerns about a collision in the judgement of the FAA. That number had been 43 in 2012, and 37 in 2009.

The FAA says that the sharp jump in errors  beginning in 2009 was due largely to changes in the culture at the agency which allowed controllers to report errors without the threat of losing their jobs. The number of "operations errors" in 2011 was nearly double that of 2007. In addition, incidents in which aircraft come closer than permitted by FARs are now designated "mandatory occurrence reports" rather than "controller errors." The designation includes mistakes made by pilots as well as technical problems that are beyond the contollers influence.

An FAA spokeswoman said in a statement to the paper that the change in culture had "produced a wealth of information to help the FAA identify potential risks in the system and take swift action to address them."

Still, safety experts say the error rate may spike again in 2012 as improvements in computerized tracking systems note incidents that had not previously been identified.

FMI: www.faa.gov, www.natca.org

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