Air Traffic Controllers

Keys to keeping air traffic controllers awake on the job



Odds are air traffic controllers have been falling asleep on the job since shortly after Wilbur told Orville to speed up. But like Florida shark attacks, suicidal iPhone-plant workers, and the Swine Flu pandemic, the media's found itself a narrative and ain't letting go until a real story comes along.
Why buck tradition? Here are five ways air traffic controllers can keep themselves awake while on the job.

  • Eat at Buca di Beppo before starting their shift: Most every time I eat at this Italian family-style restaurant, I get a nasty case of the gurglies that prevents me from sleeping. They might not be at their desk, but a pre-work meal here would keep air traffic controllers from dozing off.
  • "Uppers and downers / Either way blood flows": These lines from The Who's "5:15" sum up my approach for keeping it going during a long workday. Here's the totality of what I consumed while reporting from the 2010 Kentucky Derby: latte, muffin, Derby Pie, mint juleps, snus, Mountain Dew and nothing else
  • Stream porn on the console: Ever known anyone who fell asleep while watching a nudie movie (drunken frat boys excluded)? Me neither.
  • Play games with the airplanes: Engaging in competition for fun and profit also gets the blood going. That 767 that's 30 miles out? See if you can get it to do more laps around your airport than a fellow controller can get a plane to do around his or hers.
  • Play the ponies: Speaking of fun and profit, there are horse races going on at all hours around the world. Betting high stakes on the ponies is a surefire way to stay awake and, unlike other forms of online gambling, it's legal.

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