Controller Errors At Memphis Raise Concerns

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Six operational errors over six days at the Memphis Air Route Traffic Control Center last week were due to fatigue and training errors caused by inadequate staffing, according to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA). "Memphis Center was authorized by the FAA to have 354 controllers on staff for a safe staffing level," NATCA said in a news release on Tuesday. "Currently, there are 249 fully certified controllers staffing six areas 24 hours a day, seven days a week. These same controllers are also responsible for the on-the-job training for the 63 trainees." FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown told AVweb that the "authorized staffing" numbers cited by NATCA are out of date. "We have new staffing ranges, and 244 to 298 is the staffing range for that facility," she said. Also, many of the trainees, though they are not fully certified on all sectors, are certified on some. "They can work traffic," Brown said. "They are part of the controller staffing." Brown said that all operational errors are investigated to find out what happened and what corrective actions are needed. "But we have no indication the errors at Memphis were related to staffing levels," she said.