Air Traffic Controller Errors at O’Hare Have Risen Recently, But Changes in Error Reporting Requirements May Be a Factor

Errors committed by the air traffic controllers at O’Hare International Airport showed an increase from six in a next-to-last year period compared to 17 in the most recent one-year period (five errors in 2009 compared to 12 in 2010).

Most errors are related to failure to keep planes a proper distance separated. Errors are under investigation by federal investigators, and may be caused by an accelerated training schedule to accommodate news runways and an anticipated third control tower on the south side of the airfield.

Veteran controllers are being given breaks from instructor duties, out of concern that time spent being an instructor actually decreases skill level.

The increased in errors are also being reported at a time when changes were implemented in error-reporting requirements.

The O’Hare International Airport tower is staffed with 52 fully certified air traffic controllers. Currently 15 controllers are in training with some experience and four new hires classified as “developmentals,” according to FAA information. Six more controllers in training are scheduled to start this year. Two O’Hare controllers retired last year, and more retirements are expected this year