A few years ago — I was shocked just now to learn it was 16 years ago — the New York Times penned an extensive article on the life of air traffic controllers in some of the busiest airspace in the world — New York. One quote stood out among the many from controllers on how they handle the pressure. “Even as bad as you can mess up, it’s a big sky; the planes won’t hit,” one said with a rhetorical shoulder shrug.
But other air traffic controllers might.
Bloomberg News is reporting today that whistleblowers in the centers and towers are reporting the New York controllers appear to be an out-of-control band:
When midnight rolled around and flight traffic thinned out, air-traffic controllers guiding planes in the busiest U.S. corridor whipped out laptops to watch movies, play games or gamble online.
Controllers on break inflated air mattresses and napped on the floor. Some left before their shifts were over. They cursed at managers, refused to train new controllers, and flouted rules requiring them to pass on weather advisories to pilots.
Investigators from the Office of Special Counsel, the agency that protects whistleblowers, have apparently confirmed the reports and also allegations that supervisors’ cars who objected to their behavior had their cars vandalized.
In New York, investigators found a facility in which FAA managers were unwilling or afraid to discipline controllers’ union members, the reports said. Supervisors who tried to enforce the rules had their cars vandalized or were threatened. The result was widespread violations of rules that undermined safety, reviews by the special counsel and FAA found.
Seeley, who’d worked in Fort Worth, Texas, before coming to New York in February 2010, said he was shocked by what he saw.
“The advice from the seasoned front-line managers was: you keep your head in the sand,” he said.
And keep your tush off of New York-bound flights?
(h/t: Sara Meyer)