FAA: Air Traffic Control Errors Double

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In an era of unrivaled air travel safety concerns, mistakes made by air traffic controllers appear to have doubled.

The Federal Aviation Administration reported that during a year-long span ending Sept. 30, 2010 controllers made nearly 1,889 operation errors. That's up from 947 errors for the same time period a year before.
Air traffic controller Evan Seeley, who works at the Ronkonkoma, N.Y., radar facility, pointed to a relaxed atmosphere in the control room as the reason for the spike. He said controllers sometimes watch movies or play with electronic devices during their shifts.

Seeley notified the U.S. Transportation Department's inspector general and the Office of Special Counsel, which investigates whistleblower charges, of his concerns.  It was a move he says that got him demoted.

Meanwhile, the report has sparked concern among lawmakers in Washington, D.C.  At a hearing before the House aviation subcommittee earlier this week, congressmen grilled FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt about the errors increase and Seeley's claims.

"We don't want to play 'gotcha,"' Wisconsin Rep. Thomas Petri, the panel's Republican chairman, told Babbitt. "We do want though, to have people know that we're concerned and we're watching."

*Originally aired on Feb. 11, 2011.

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