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Aviation Safety Reporting System
|Local Time Of Day||0001 To 0600|
|Locale Reference||atc facility : zmp.artcc|
|Affiliation||government : faa|
|Qualification||controller : radar|
|Experience||controller radar : 15|
controller time certified in position1 : 15
|Anomaly||other anomaly other|
|Independent Detector||other controllera|
|Resolutory Action||none taken : anomaly accepted|
On may/xa/06 at approximately XA15; I relieved the only other controller on duty in my area of specialty from sector 29 r-side. This is the first yr that our area has chosen to staff the area with only 2 controllers on the mid-shift down from the 3 controllers that were needed and used to staff the area on mid-shifts for the 10+ yrs prior to that. Shortly thereafter; I noticed a yellow alert on the monitor alert parameter chart that is projected on the wall of the area. The other controller walked down to the area manager in charge's desk and brought this fact to his attention. Subsequently; the other controller plugged into the d-side position. At approximately XA45 the sector exceeded the monitor alert parameter chart number (a monitor alert parameter chart red alert) and was extremely busy until approximately XB45 with continuous light to moderate chop reported at all altitudes; aircraft deviating around convective WX and the resulting frequency congestion. Data block overlap was a problem because of the 215 mi range that is used on the mid-shifts in this area of specialty; with most of the aircraft proceeding to the same area to stay clear of the WX. The amic allegedly moved a couple of aircraft out of our sector to relieve the congestion; but those aircraft actually were progressively handed off through our sector twice. So in essence those aircraft were not actually kept out of our sector. The fact that most of the aircraft were routed over FOD (fort dodge; ia; VOR) due to the WX; shows that someone somewhere had some sort of tmu or flow control directions to do so. Yet the fact that this route was being issued obviously wasn't communicated to the sector that would be most affected by that routing. On mid-shifts; FAA management has decided that the normal rules and FAA orders don't apply. We have skeletal staffing with controllers working with disrupted circadian rhythms because of their rotating shifts. In this case both controllers on the shift were working at the time of the incident; so there was no one else available to otherwise relieve the situation. This alone is an unsafe situation. One would assume that given the minimal and fatigued staffing on mid-shifts that additional tmu and supervisory oversight would be accomplished to ensure a safe operation; but the opposite is actually true. The FAA order 7210.3; facility operations and admin; 'watch supervision;' section 2-6-2A states that 'efficient air traffic services require watch supervision regardless of the number of people assigned...' and section 2-6-2G states that; 'an individual is considered available for watch supervision when he/she is physically present in the operational area and is able to perform the primary duties of the function....' during the daytime at ZMP being 'physically present in the operational area' means a supervisor or controller in charge current in the area is present in each operational area at all times. However; on the mid-shift a single amic is responsible for this duty for 6 operational areas; sitting at a desk up to over 75 ft away from some areas; and out of sight of all the areas. Clearly there is a disparity in the way the order is implemented depending on the time of day. The 7210.3 additionally states under 'monitor and alert parameter;' section 17-7-1; 'purpose;' that the ' monitor alert parameter chart is a dynamic value which will be adjusted to reflect the capabilities of the functional position or airport.' considering the turbulence and convective WX; the sector 29 monitor alert parameter chart should have been adjusted downwards; which means that the monitor alert parameter chart would have been exceeded by even a greater value than it was. Additionally; the 7210.3 'monitor and alert parameter;' section 17-7-3; 'responsibilities;' states that 'facility tmu's shall: D) respond to alerts by: 1) analyzing the data for the alerted timeframe to develop expected impact and recommendations to address the alert. 2) for red alerts -- notify the affected area of the alert; indicating the expected impact and recommended action. 3) for yellow alerts -- notify the affected area of the alert when analysis indicatesthat the ability of the sector to provide efficient air traffic services will be degraded due to abnormal operations.' I have been told previously that the monitor alert parameter is all about sector 'efficiency' and does not concern sector safety. However; it is obvious (to controllers anyway) that there is a correlation between sector efficiency and sector safety; as less efficient sectors have lower capacity and thus can work fewer aircraft safely. In fact; an NTSB safety recommendation on apr 7; 2000 (A-00-23 through A-00-27) notes that during an operational error event in which 'traffic conditions at the time of the error were extremely heavy and complex...' that the monitor alert parameter chart order was not being adhered to and recommended facilities comply with the dynamic monitor alert parameter chart adjustment requirements and also 'establish a formal method for ATC personnel to report instances in which sectors become overloaded (similar to the ucr process)....' neither of these recommendations has been heeded. The fact that at least 2 separate orders in the 7210.3 are being ignored on mid-shifts is a serious concern. Effective watch supervision is lacking as well as adherence to monitor alert parameter chart orders and procedures. This allows traffic to build to unsafe levels on mid-shifts without the staffing available to work it safely and efficiently. Failure to adhere to the 7210.3 orders led to sector 29 traffic levels exceeding reasonable and safe levels without the staffing to otherwise alleviate the situation.
Original NASA ASRS Text
Title: ZMP CTLR DESCRIBED STAFFING AND TFC MGMNT CONCERNS DURING LATE NIGHT OPS.
Narrative: ON MAY/XA/06 AT APPROX XA15; I RELIEVED THE ONLY OTHER CTLR ON DUTY IN MY AREA OF SPECIALTY FROM SECTOR 29 R-SIDE. THIS IS THE FIRST YR THAT OUR AREA HAS CHOSEN TO STAFF THE AREA WITH ONLY 2 CTLRS ON THE MID-SHIFT DOWN FROM THE 3 CTLRS THAT WERE NEEDED AND USED TO STAFF THE AREA ON MID-SHIFTS FOR THE 10+ YRS PRIOR TO THAT. SHORTLY THEREAFTER; I NOTICED A YELLOW ALERT ON THE MONITOR ALERT PARAMETER CHART THAT IS PROJECTED ON THE WALL OF THE AREA. THE OTHER CTLR WALKED DOWN TO THE AREA MGR IN CHARGE'S DESK AND BROUGHT THIS FACT TO HIS ATTN. SUBSEQUENTLY; THE OTHER CTLR PLUGGED INTO THE D-SIDE POS. AT APPROX XA45 THE SECTOR EXCEEDED THE MONITOR ALERT PARAMETER CHART NUMBER (A MONITOR ALERT PARAMETER CHART RED ALERT) AND WAS EXTREMELY BUSY UNTIL APPROX XB45 WITH CONTINUOUS LIGHT TO MODERATE CHOP RPTED AT ALL ALTS; ACFT DEVIATING AROUND CONVECTIVE WX AND THE RESULTING FREQ CONGESTION. DATA BLOCK OVERLAP WAS A PROB BECAUSE OF THE 215 MI RANGE THAT IS USED ON THE MID-SHIFTS IN THIS AREA OF SPECIALTY; WITH MOST OF THE ACFT PROCEEDING TO THE SAME AREA TO STAY CLR OF THE WX. THE AMIC ALLEGEDLY MOVED A COUPLE OF ACFT OUT OF OUR SECTOR TO RELIEVE THE CONGESTION; BUT THOSE ACFT ACTUALLY WERE PROGRESSIVELY HANDED OFF THROUGH OUR SECTOR TWICE. SO IN ESSENCE THOSE ACFT WERE NOT ACTUALLY KEPT OUT OF OUR SECTOR. THE FACT THAT MOST OF THE ACFT WERE ROUTED OVER FOD (FORT DODGE; IA; VOR) DUE TO THE WX; SHOWS THAT SOMEONE SOMEWHERE HAD SOME SORT OF TMU OR FLOW CTL DIRECTIONS TO DO SO. YET THE FACT THAT THIS RTE WAS BEING ISSUED OBVIOUSLY WASN'T COMMUNICATED TO THE SECTOR THAT WOULD BE MOST AFFECTED BY THAT ROUTING. ON MID-SHIFTS; FAA MGMNT HAS DECIDED THAT THE NORMAL RULES AND FAA ORDERS DON'T APPLY. WE HAVE SKELETAL STAFFING WITH CTLRS WORKING WITH DISRUPTED CIRCADIAN RHYTHMS BECAUSE OF THEIR ROTATING SHIFTS. IN THIS CASE BOTH CTLRS ON THE SHIFT WERE WORKING AT THE TIME OF THE INCIDENT; SO THERE WAS NO ONE ELSE AVAILABLE TO OTHERWISE RELIEVE THE SITUATION. THIS ALONE IS AN UNSAFE SITUATION. ONE WOULD ASSUME THAT GIVEN THE MINIMAL AND FATIGUED STAFFING ON MID-SHIFTS THAT ADDITIONAL TMU AND SUPERVISORY OVERSIGHT WOULD BE ACCOMPLISHED TO ENSURE A SAFE OP; BUT THE OPPOSITE IS ACTUALLY TRUE. THE FAA ORDER 7210.3; FACILITY OPS AND ADMIN; 'WATCH SUPERVISION;' SECTION 2-6-2A STATES THAT 'EFFICIENT AIR TFC SVCS REQUIRE WATCH SUPERVISION REGARDLESS OF THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE ASSIGNED...' AND SECTION 2-6-2G STATES THAT; 'AN INDIVIDUAL IS CONSIDERED AVAILABLE FOR WATCH SUPERVISION WHEN HE/SHE IS PHYSICALLY PRESENT IN THE OPERATIONAL AREA AND IS ABLE TO PERFORM THE PRIMARY DUTIES OF THE FUNCTION....' DURING THE DAYTIME AT ZMP BEING 'PHYSICALLY PRESENT IN THE OPERATIONAL AREA' MEANS A SUPVR OR CIC CURRENT IN THE AREA IS PRESENT IN EACH OPERATIONAL AREA AT ALL TIMES. HOWEVER; ON THE MID-SHIFT A SINGLE AMIC IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS DUTY FOR 6 OPERATIONAL AREAS; SITTING AT A DESK UP TO OVER 75 FT AWAY FROM SOME AREAS; AND OUT OF SIGHT OF ALL THE AREAS. CLRLY THERE IS A DISPARITY IN THE WAY THE ORDER IS IMPLEMENTED DEPENDING ON THE TIME OF DAY. THE 7210.3 ADDITIONALLY STATES UNDER 'MONITOR AND ALERT PARAMETER;' SECTION 17-7-1; 'PURPOSE;' THAT THE ' MONITOR ALERT PARAMETER CHART IS A DYNAMIC VALUE WHICH WILL BE ADJUSTED TO REFLECT THE CAPABILITIES OF THE FUNCTIONAL POS OR ARPT.' CONSIDERING THE TURB AND CONVECTIVE WX; THE SECTOR 29 MONITOR ALERT PARAMETER CHART SHOULD HAVE BEEN ADJUSTED DOWNWARDS; WHICH MEANS THAT THE MONITOR ALERT PARAMETER CHART WOULD HAVE BEEN EXCEEDED BY EVEN A GREATER VALUE THAN IT WAS. ADDITIONALLY; THE 7210.3 'MONITOR AND ALERT PARAMETER;' SECTION 17-7-3; 'RESPONSIBILITIES;' STATES THAT 'FACILITY TMU'S SHALL: D) RESPOND TO ALERTS BY: 1) ANALYZING THE DATA FOR THE ALERTED TIMEFRAME TO DEVELOP EXPECTED IMPACT AND RECOMMENDATIONS TO ADDRESS THE ALERT. 2) FOR RED ALERTS -- NOTIFY THE AFFECTED AREA OF THE ALERT; INDICATING THE EXPECTED IMPACT AND RECOMMENDED ACTION. 3) FOR YELLOW ALERTS -- NOTIFY THE AFFECTED AREA OF THE ALERT WHEN ANALYSIS INDICATESTHAT THE ABILITY OF THE SECTOR TO PROVIDE EFFICIENT AIR TFC SVCS WILL BE DEGRADED DUE TO ABNORMAL OPS.' I HAVE BEEN TOLD PREVIOUSLY THAT THE MONITOR ALERT PARAMETER IS ALL ABOUT SECTOR 'EFFICIENCY' AND DOES NOT CONCERN SECTOR SAFETY. HOWEVER; IT IS OBVIOUS (TO CTLRS ANYWAY) THAT THERE IS A CORRELATION BTWN SECTOR EFFICIENCY AND SECTOR SAFETY; AS LESS EFFICIENT SECTORS HAVE LOWER CAPACITY AND THUS CAN WORK FEWER ACFT SAFELY. IN FACT; AN NTSB SAFETY RECOMMENDATION ON APR 7; 2000 (A-00-23 THROUGH A-00-27) NOTES THAT DURING AN OPERROR EVENT IN WHICH 'TFC CONDITIONS AT THE TIME OF THE ERROR WERE EXTREMELY HVY AND COMPLEX...' THAT THE MONITOR ALERT PARAMETER CHART ORDER WAS NOT BEING ADHERED TO AND RECOMMENDED FACILITIES COMPLY WITH THE DYNAMIC MONITOR ALERT PARAMETER CHART ADJUSTMENT REQUIREMENTS AND ALSO 'ESTABLISH A FORMAL METHOD FOR ATC PERSONNEL TO RPT INSTANCES IN WHICH SECTORS BECOME OVERLOADED (SIMILAR TO THE UCR PROCESS)....' NEITHER OF THESE RECOMMENDATIONS HAS BEEN HEEDED. THE FACT THAT AT LEAST 2 SEPARATE ORDERS IN THE 7210.3 ARE BEING IGNORED ON MID-SHIFTS IS A SERIOUS CONCERN. EFFECTIVE WATCH SUPERVISION IS LACKING AS WELL AS ADHERENCE TO MONITOR ALERT PARAMETER CHART ORDERS AND PROCS. THIS ALLOWS TFC TO BUILD TO UNSAFE LEVELS ON MID-SHIFTS WITHOUT THE STAFFING AVAILABLE TO WORK IT SAFELY AND EFFICIENTLY. FAILURE TO ADHERE TO THE 7210.3 ORDERS LED TO SECTOR 29 TFC LEVELS EXCEEDING REASONABLE AND SAFE LEVELS WITHOUT THE STAFFING TO OTHERWISE ALLEVIATE THE SITUATION.
Data retrieved from NASA's ASRS site as of January 2009 and automatically converted to unabbreviated mixed upper/lowercase text. This report is for informational purposes with no guarantee of accuracy. See NASA's ASRS site for official report.