This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Lately, we have been worried about our safety when flying. We're also worried about the health of a family member who is an air traffic controller at Salt Lake City International Airport.
Recent news has shown the difficulty controllers have staying awake. It's said they should get more sleep when off duty. Well, it's not that easy. We've become shocked about how his work schedules are detrimental to his health and everyone's safety.
Everyone's body grows accustomed to certain sleep patterns. When these patterns are disrupted, our bodies suffer sleep deprivation, which causes long-term damage and short-term problems.
He and his co-workers are scheduled in a system of two day shifts, two nights, and one graveyard. Their bodies can't adjust: They are awake when they should be sleeping and sleepy when they should be alert. If there's only eight hours between shifts, how can a person get home and back and still get enough sleep?
Thousands of lives are in controllers' hands, so alertness is a must. Constant alertness is an unreachable goal with such shift schedules. Serious accidents are waiting to happen.
The Federal Aviation Administration needs to make real and necessary changes before people are killed.
Dan and LeaRae Atwood