Controller Errors May Not Affect Safety?

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Errors attributed to air traffic controllers have dramatically risen in recent years and a report due soon is expected to show they've remained relatively unchanged from 2010 to 2011, but what that means could be complicated. According to the FAA and the controllers union (NATCA), much of the increase could be the result of changes made in how errors are reported. A spike in reported controller errors is expected to be recorded in 2012 for similar reasons. Increases in training may have also contributed to the rise in reported errors. Meanwhile, there is evidence to suggest that in spite of the figures airline safety hasn't been affected.

Reported controller errors jumped 50 percent from 2009 to 2010, when the FAA says changes in reporting resulted in more voluntary reports from controllers. In 2012, the FAA plans to install new computerized reporting systems that will document controller errors that previously went undetected or unreported. Meanwhile, the FAA's efforts to train large groups of controllers to counter a forecast controller shortage could also result in more errors reported as less experienced trainees work under supervision. Whatever causes are behind the increase, airline safety statistics reported last year by the International Air Transport Association have moved in the opposite direction. According to IATA in 2011, "Global safety performance is at the best-ever level recorded." The NTSB's figures for 2010 show a decrease in major accidents per million hours flown in each year from 2008 to 2010.

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