|37000 Feet||Browse and search NASA's
Aviation Safety Reporting System
|Local Time Of Day||1201 To 1800|
|Locale Reference||airport : abq.airport|
|Altitude||msl bound lower : 29000|
|Affiliation||government : faa|
|Function||controller : radar|
|Qualification||controller : radar|
|Experience||controller radar : 1|
|Anomaly||other anomaly other|
non adherence : company policies
|Independent Detector||other controllera|
|Resolutory Action||none taken : anomaly accepted|
I feel it is very important to bring to light the staffing issue at ZAB (albuquerque air route traffic control center). I was asked to change my regular shift due to a shortage of controllers. I agreed because I knew my coworkers would suffer a great deal if there wasn't someone else willing to help them out. I had come into work at XA40 to begin my duties of atcs. I felt very good and was doing well keeping with the traffic situations. After 1 hour and 55 mins on position; I was told it was in my better interest to take a break since around XD00 the staffing was going to 'get slimmer.' I took a break; and came back to work. After returning from a break; I could see the WX over northeastern NM and the panhandle of tx had grown. I took over a sector and began to work. It got pretty busy. I was dealing with numerous requests to deviate for WX; along with aircraft looking for smoother ride conditions requesting altitude changes. After about 40 mins of continuous traffic; I was relieved from the position to allow an instructor and his trainee to train. I was then utilized to provide a break for a controller who was next in line for a break. I sat on this new sector for an additional 1 hour and 50 mins. This second sector was busy; sitting adjacent to the previous sector. There were many requests for WX deviations; as well as numerous altitude requests. The traffic levels would slow down some and increase over time. The traffic complexity seemed to come in waves every 10 mins or so; lasting for about 20-30 mins each 'push.' after working for close to 1 hour and 50 mins without a break; I began to question the supervisor about the status of the break list. I was asked 'why?' I told the supervisor that I wanted a break. The supervisor stated that I was the first on the list; and that I would get relieved when the 1 person on break came back. During the final 35 mins of my time on position; I was feeling mentally spent. I called air carrier xx; air carrier xy about 6 times; before the pilot said 'center; do you mean air carrier xx?' I found myself using wrong frequencys. I caught the readbacks; but nonetheless; I was fighting just to keep numbers from being transposed. After a total of 2 hours and 33 mins on position I was finally relieved and was afforded the opportunity to take a break. For most of the night; there was only 1 controller on break at a time; out of 8 working cpc's; working 7 position. The average time on position was just over 2 hours on position per controller for the remainder of the night. 1 hour and 30 mins into the 3RD session; the supervisor terminated training; and put 2 people on the break list at a time. On my 3RD working session; I skipped 3 breaks; knowing that I was going home and that other controllers were staying later with the possibility of having no breaks. I skipped my 1ST break 1 hour and 45 mins into my 3RD session. After a total of 2 hours and 20 mins on position; I was relieved to go home. Instead of combining sectors and utilizing traffic management initiatives; the supervisor kept sectors open that could have been combined. This forced the break list to move very slowly; wearing out the workforce for the evening. I am fearful of what can happen due to short staffing. I am truly concerned not only for the flying public; but for the safety of the controllers as well.
Original NASA ASRS Text
Title: ZAB CTLR DESCRIBED SHIFT WITH LIMITED STAFFING THAT RESULTED IN EXTENDED TIME ON POSITION.
Narrative: I FEEL IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO BRING TO LIGHT THE STAFFING ISSUE AT ZAB (ALBUQUERQUE AIR RTE TFC CTL CTR). I WAS ASKED TO CHANGE MY REGULAR SHIFT DUE TO A SHORTAGE OF CTLRS. I AGREED BECAUSE I KNEW MY COWORKERS WOULD SUFFER A GREAT DEAL IF THERE WASN'T SOMEONE ELSE WILLING TO HELP THEM OUT. I HAD COME INTO WORK AT XA40 TO BEGIN MY DUTIES OF ATCS. I FELT VERY GOOD AND WAS DOING WELL KEEPING WITH THE TFC SITUATIONS. AFTER 1 HR AND 55 MINS ON POS; I WAS TOLD IT WAS IN MY BETTER INTEREST TO TAKE A BREAK SINCE AROUND XD00 THE STAFFING WAS GOING TO 'GET SLIMMER.' I TOOK A BREAK; AND CAME BACK TO WORK. AFTER RETURNING FROM A BREAK; I COULD SEE THE WX OVER NORTHEASTERN NM AND THE PANHANDLE OF TX HAD GROWN. I TOOK OVER A SECTOR AND BEGAN TO WORK. IT GOT PRETTY BUSY. I WAS DEALING WITH NUMEROUS REQUESTS TO DEVIATE FOR WX; ALONG WITH ACFT LOOKING FOR SMOOTHER RIDE CONDITIONS REQUESTING ALT CHANGES. AFTER ABOUT 40 MINS OF CONTINUOUS TFC; I WAS RELIEVED FROM THE POS TO ALLOW AN INSTRUCTOR AND HIS TRAINEE TO TRAIN. I WAS THEN UTILIZED TO PROVIDE A BREAK FOR A CTLR WHO WAS NEXT IN LINE FOR A BREAK. I SAT ON THIS NEW SECTOR FOR AN ADDITIONAL 1 HR AND 50 MINS. THIS SECOND SECTOR WAS BUSY; SITTING ADJACENT TO THE PREVIOUS SECTOR. THERE WERE MANY REQUESTS FOR WX DEVS; AS WELL AS NUMEROUS ALT REQUESTS. THE TFC LEVELS WOULD SLOW DOWN SOME AND INCREASE OVER TIME. THE TFC COMPLEXITY SEEMED TO COME IN WAVES EVERY 10 MINS OR SO; LASTING FOR ABOUT 20-30 MINS EACH 'PUSH.' AFTER WORKING FOR CLOSE TO 1 HR AND 50 MINS WITHOUT A BREAK; I BEGAN TO QUESTION THE SUPVR ABOUT THE STATUS OF THE BREAK LIST. I WAS ASKED 'WHY?' I TOLD THE SUPVR THAT I WANTED A BREAK. THE SUPVR STATED THAT I WAS THE FIRST ON THE LIST; AND THAT I WOULD GET RELIEVED WHEN THE 1 PERSON ON BREAK CAME BACK. DURING THE FINAL 35 MINS OF MY TIME ON POS; I WAS FEELING MENTALLY SPENT. I CALLED ACR XX; ACR XY ABOUT 6 TIMES; BEFORE THE PLT SAID 'CTR; DO YOU MEAN ACR XX?' I FOUND MYSELF USING WRONG FREQS. I CAUGHT THE READBACKS; BUT NONETHELESS; I WAS FIGHTING JUST TO KEEP NUMBERS FROM BEING TRANSPOSED. AFTER A TOTAL OF 2 HRS AND 33 MINS ON POS I WAS FINALLY RELIEVED AND WAS AFFORDED THE OPPORTUNITY TO TAKE A BREAK. FOR MOST OF THE NIGHT; THERE WAS ONLY 1 CTLR ON BREAK AT A TIME; OUT OF 8 WORKING CPC'S; WORKING 7 POS. THE AVERAGE TIME ON POS WAS JUST OVER 2 HRS ON POS PER CTLR FOR THE REMAINDER OF THE NIGHT. 1 HR AND 30 MINS INTO THE 3RD SESSION; THE SUPVR TERMINATED TRAINING; AND PUT 2 PEOPLE ON THE BREAK LIST AT A TIME. ON MY 3RD WORKING SESSION; I SKIPPED 3 BREAKS; KNOWING THAT I WAS GOING HOME AND THAT OTHER CTLRS WERE STAYING LATER WITH THE POSSIBILITY OF HAVING NO BREAKS. I SKIPPED MY 1ST BREAK 1 HR AND 45 MINS INTO MY 3RD SESSION. AFTER A TOTAL OF 2 HRS AND 20 MINS ON POS; I WAS RELIEVED TO GO HOME. INSTEAD OF COMBINING SECTORS AND UTILIZING TFC MGMNT INITIATIVES; THE SUPVR KEPT SECTORS OPEN THAT COULD HAVE BEEN COMBINED. THIS FORCED THE BREAK LIST TO MOVE VERY SLOWLY; WEARING OUT THE WORKFORCE FOR THE EVENING. I AM FEARFUL OF WHAT CAN HAPPEN DUE TO SHORT STAFFING. I AM TRULY CONCERNED NOT ONLY FOR THE FLYING PUBLIC; BUT FOR THE SAFETY OF THE CTLRS AS WELL.
Data retrieved from NASA's ASRS site as of May 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.