Naha air traffic controller falls asleep on job


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Action should have been taken after those near mishaps in the U.S. Why do we wait for tragedy or close calls to implement greater safety actions? Is it o.k. to risk lives to save a buck? Lucky it was a cargo plane, but the crew onboard are worth every extra penny, too. Heaven knows we pay through the nose to better that entire industry. Here comes another "airport tax" to get another someone in the tower. Was it pride that restrained him from calling someone to tell them he didn't feel he could make it through the shift? I hope the entire aviation industry "wakes up." we invest too much money for this crap to still be happening. Pilots need a cattle prod they can operate from their cockpit!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Holly cow FLipRay are you suggesting that because a person has an employment contract that there is no accountability for their incompetence while on the job???

I can just imagine it, OHHHH just made a tiny mistake, and people died, BUT I`m sweetI have a contract to cover me!!

If they get fired the Union will throw a fit.................If that person costs the lives of innocent people, I bet 100% the families will throw a fit a lot further than any stupid Union.

There is a huge responsibility on those people who take on jobs where other peoples lives are at risk, and believe me there is NO grey area here.

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Oh yah, another thing. Controllers in the states doesnt really get fired. They just get moved to another area or they get put on a cushy desk job. Contracts are contracts, they can't just fire controllers because the union will throw a fit.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Funny how everybody's freaking out. Let's explain what happens in this type of situation. There are 2 groups of people that this plane is talking to. You have the Radar Approach guys and the Tower guys. Planes landing comes in talking to the Radar guys and then they get handed off to the Tower guys. When the Pilot switches over to talk to the Tower and doesnt hear anything back, he automatically switches back and calls the Radar guys back. The Radar controller sees everything and has an idea of what's going on around the Tower since duh, he has a Radar. Planes does not get to an airport and fly in fumes. They have hours of reserve fuel for worst case scenarios, like get diverted to another airport. There was no actual danger other than the plane had to wait for a bit to land since the only person who can clear him to land in that airport is the Tower Controller. Well, the Radar guy can clear them to land all the way in but they have to get an all clear from the Tower guys first.

Here's another thing that people freak out about when they hear Air Traffic stories. Two planes flying and the news says they broke minimum flight separation and then crucifies the Controller for not keeping them "safe." Guess they forgot to mention that the minimum separation between two IFR aircraft is 3 freaking miles or atleast 1000 feet vertical.

Also, let's think of another thing about this situation. Its 3 AM, no commercial flight comes in after midnight. Between midnight till 5-6 am, he'd be lucky to talk to 2 aircraft. If he talks to 5 planes in that span, that was a busy night. During the day, the same guy could talk to 20-30 planes in a span of 30 mins.

It's just ridiculous how people blow things way out of proportion when they have no clue on what's going on.

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I believe Naha and Kadena are more than 4 miles apart. From Kadena to Naha is about 24 kilometers so that is about 11 miles. Air miles may be a little less but I do believe the distance is more than 4 miles. Anyway, I'm just being technical and it's not important. None-the-less, it is scary that this happened but I'm pretty sure things like that happen more than we would like to know. Now back to my Flight Simulator so I can practice falling asleep while at the controls of a plane.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

One of the joys of working nights is trying to stay awake when things get quiet. If you haven't done it you're in no position to judge. And as for the jerk that suggested sake might have played a're an idiot and I'll lay odds you are a nine to fiver !

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Naha airport is less than 4 miles from Kadena AB which is a USAF base. The runways for these two airports are situated 90 degrees from each other. When aircraft from Kadena take off or land toward Naha, they fly over the flight path of aircraft going into or out of Naha. Up until about a year ago Kadena controlled aircraft for both locations, but then turned it back to Japan. Kadena monitors EVERYTHING that moves in the sky as far as their radar will reach to include radar from AWACS if necessary. The US ARMY is also monitoring air traffic through the eye of Patriot Missile trackers located on Kadena. The landing aircraft was in no danger, was in contact with Kadena and had 12,000 feet of alternate runway available with an simple turn to the left, but I bet the two controllers at Naha had some explaining. Now you know who spilled the beans…….

5 ( +5 / -0 )

should be more controllers at the same time. it looks funny article but the issue is actually very serious

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Install "Klaxon" horns, set to go off at randon intervals.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

This has happened way too many times both here in Japan and other parts of the world. Train drivers, air traffic controllers, bus-tour drivers. security guards etc. Our lives depend on these people and we put our faith in them, automatically. It should be mandatory that there be at least two people working at all times. Most of these workers are working round the clock and unwatched and we have no way of knowing their physical status, let alone their ability to do their jobs.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Back on topic please.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Could have told them he had the runs and was in the toilet the whole time.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

A good movie about air traffic controllers would be 'Pushing Tin' starring John Cusack and Angelina Jolie

1 ( +1 / -0 )

"While several air traffic controllers in the U.S. were recently suspended and fired for sleeping on the job, such a case was rare in Japan, industry insiders told the agency."

Such cases where Japanese fall asleep at the wheel (so to speak)? or where they are actually fired for it? In any case, I hope the guy was canned -- this is too serious an error for him to be able to continue in that capacity. At the very least, I hope he was moved to some office desk job.

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While several air traffic controllers in the U.S. were recently suspended and fired for sleeping on the job, such a case was rare in Japan, industry insiders told the agency.

Is it really necessary to point this out? Its like saying "hey this bad stuff happens all the time in the US but rarely here!". Whats the point of it? To try and shift the focus on to the US? To show that Japan is still better? Totally unnecessary information imo

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Okinawa?? Such a nice place too bad that if these tired air traffic controllers cause a huge accident many people will be scared to visit so time to put more young people at work IMHO.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Fire him. He can always get a job as a nuclear reactor operator.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

It is no longer always two controllers. There was an incident in the US in March-

"2 planes land at Washington airport without controller help

Two planes landed safely early Wednesday morning at Washington's Reagan National Airport after they were unable to reach anyone at the airport's air traffic control tower, according to the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board.

The FAA would not comment on a media report that the airport controller had fallen asleep. NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson said, "All we know is the controller was unresponsive and we want to know why."

The situation began at 12:10 a.m. Wednesday when an American Airlines plane attempted to call the tower to get clearance to land and got no answer, Knudson said. The plane had been in contact with a regional air traffic control facility, and a controller at that facility advised the pilot that he, too had been unable to contact anyone at the tower, according to a recording of air control traffic at the website"

Scarier is this guy who made a bed on the floor to purposely sleep-

Seems to be a problem in many countries, not enough workers and/or shifts that are too long.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

While several air traffic controllers in the U.S. were recently suspended and fired for sleeping on the job, such a case was rare in Japan, industry insiders told the agency.

Such a case is nore RARE in Japan. To be more accurate, it's RARELY made public in Japan. The only reason why you got to catch this one is cause of the recent nosedive ANA pilots took their passengers on less than a week ago.

Hey Japan, what's up with all these Oyaji-gags with people's lives at stake? That's not a joke!!

Get that guy out of there. Bet he had some Sake in his system too.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

This traffic controller's night shift duty was between 11PM and 7:30AM. Another traffic controller (woman) was supposed to join his shift at 3:00AM but got to the traffic control tower at 3:25AM. There should be two traffic controllers on duty to every shift at all times.

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This is what happens when you put accountants in charge of management as opposed to experts. The expert says, "How should it be done to do the job properly?". The accountant says, "How can we do it most cheaply without breaking any laws?". The problem is that these days with the recession the accountants are viewed as more important than the experts, and the irony is that any expert could tell you that even a single accident would wipe out all those "savings" the accountants are so keen on talking about.

Maybe I just belong to a bygone era, but where did people's pride in their work go? When did the idea of doing the job right get replaced with doing it cheaply?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I thought that it was standard elswhere to have two controller... mysterious.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This isn't very reassuring when I'm planning to travel back to Okinawa in December. I hope they'll put more controllers on the job.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Should be 2 controllers at all times.

1 ( +2 / -0 )

A totally unacceptable situation. The company needs to look at it's working conditions. Do staff get enough breaks? Are shifts too long? If the company is adhering to recommended guidelines then sorry but sayonara Mr Sleepyhead. It's one of those jobs where an incident like this could cost the lives of hundreds. When you take on a job with such responsibilities as ensuring the safety of others, you must be aware of the consequences if you botch up. I wonder if staff are told to inform someone on duty if the feel sleepy or sick?

1 ( +3 / -1 )

For our safety it is about time to find more efficient ways to control the air traffic controllers and those who employ them.

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There was another controller on duty with him at the time, a 35 year old female controller, who happened to be in the kyukei/break room when the incident occurred.

That is from the news last night when it was first reported.

1 ( +2 / -0 )

Controller fatigue is nothing new but whether it plays a major role in accidents is debatable because there is also pilot fatigue. However there is still no allowance for the tiniest of mistakes. The sleepy traffic controllers need more time for rest between shifts so it doesn't affect their performance and result in any serious event. Therefore errors in operation will probably continue to increase until they address the issue and do more like revising their schedule etc. to help the exhausted sleeping traffic controllers.

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This was a dangerous situation for an incoming flight, lucky for the air traffic controler that the pilot had sufficeint fuel and that it was not an emergency landing and .Is it customary for only one controler to be on duty at night?

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told bosses he had nodded off at about 3:15 a.m. after feeling “drowsy” during his overnight shift

Oh, I guess that makes it okay? I hope he is able to find another job....

-1 ( +2 / -2 )

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