Aviation Safety and Distraction

The Pending Government Shutdown Creating Unsafe Skies

October 22, 2009, a Northwest Airlines crew overflew Minneapolis St. Paul Airport because the pilots were distracted by the new bidding practices, as a result of the Delta Northwest merger. The same day a Delta crew landed on a taxiway in Atlanta because the captain was sleeping off his “illness” and ATC was trying to help the two first officers who had flown all night, without a break, by changing runways. These pilots were distract by the new taxiway lights that looked like a runway.

Distraction attacks in many forms. But as professionals we train ourselves to focus on the task at hand, so we don’t think about those “other” things that could impact our performance. However, the more automated our planes become, our brains require less focus. It becomes difficult to sustain constant focus on instruments when nothing is happening. The mind wanders, and that in itself is distraction. It doesn’t feel like distraction, thinking about stuff is simply a method to stay awake. These highly automated aircraft lead to complacency.


The New York Times investigation brings to light multiple errors with ATC in their article, How a Series of Air Traffic Control Lapses Nearly Killed 131 people. If you’re unable to read the New York Times, check out the Star Tribune. Starting the year off, on January 15th, 2023, a Delta flight had to abort due another ATC error when they crossed another plane in their path. These errors will cause a major accident, it’s not if, but when.

Why Are There So Many ATC Errors?

I hypothesize that these controllers are distracted with how they are going to feed their families and pay their mortgages when the government shuts down. The last time the government shutdown was December 22, 2028 to January 25, 2019. Air Traffic Controllers were required to work for free. Many called in sick. The flight operations during that time were challenged. This time, the shutdown has been delayed until November. This pending doom is a huge distraction, and has been all year and will only get worse.

What nobody is paying attention to is the distraction that this pending shutdown causes. How effective you would be at your job if you knew that you could eventually be without a paycheck? Not only that, but you would be required to work for free. The government is negatively impacting your safety.

Don’t Blame the Controllers like you blame pilots
Look at the Contributing Factors,
If you want these errors to stop before someone dies,

END the threat of a Government Shutdown Today!
Dr. Karlene Petitt
A350, B777, A330, B747-400, B747-200, B767, B757, B737, B727


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