Monday, August 10, 2009

He’s Askin’ For It

I tried to let is go. Really. I did. But Robert Poole of the Reason Foundation was just askin’ for it.

”It turns out that controllers like the 2-2-1 schedule, because it gives them super-long weekends. The practice predates NATCA and apparently originated under predecessor union PATCO. And that may well explain why the NTSB’s recommendation has not been followed.“

And Robert Poole "may well" be an idiot.

Look -- nobody in his right mind likes a 2-2-1 (2 nights, 2 days, 1 midnight) shift rotation. For those that don’t know, it’s probably the most common shift rotation at 24-hour ATC facilities.

Assuming you have Saturday and Sunday off (and most controllers don’t), it goes something like this:

Monday -- 4PM to Midnight
Tuesday -- 2 PM to 10 PM
Wednesday -- 8AM to 4 PM
Thursday -- 6AM to 2 PM
Friday -- 11 PM (it’s actually still Thursday night) to 7 AM (Friday morning)
Saturday -- Off (if you don’t get called in for overtime)
Sunday -- Off (if you don’t get assigned overtime)

As awful as that sounds (it’s worse than it sounds, trust me) it’s still the best schedule we’ve found that conforms to job’s requirements. In other words, nobody likes it -- we just can’t seem to come up with anything better.

I worked a 2-2-1 rotation almost my entire career. I believe one year we tried a week of evenings and then 4 day shifts with the last day a midnight shift. It was worse than awful. Some facilities even tried a week of midnights, week of days and a week of evenings. I would have just had to shoot myself.

Mr. Poole sounds like a 3rd-year rookie, “I get a super-long weekend”. Yeah, people (including controllers) think like that when they’re young and stupid. (Mr. Poole is neither one so he "may well" be just another propaganda-spewing mercenary.) It doesn’t take you long to realize that you collapse after the midnight and then sleep until 2 in the afternoon (which is when you’d be getting off work anyway) with the only difference being that you feel like you’ve been hit by a Mack truck (if you worked the midnight). A 2-2-1 shift rotation will kill you. Literally. But so will every other shift rotation.

Robert Poole just doesn’t like controllers. At least not union controllers. (And most controllers are still union.) If this example doesn’t convince you, the rest of his newsletter will. Its okay. The feeling is mutual. And, we beat back his scheme to privatize the air traffic control system. I don’t know if that was worth a lifetime of messed up sleep patterns -- I went to bed at 1 AM and woke up a 5AM, an all too common occurrence even though I’m retired -- but it’s worth something.

Don Brown
August 10, 2009

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