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
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
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.