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Turn Off Tune In Making a Difference, But We Must Remain Vigilant to Remove All Distractions

By the Turn Off Tune In NATCA-FAA Collaborative Workgroup

Five and a half years ago, Turn Off Tune In was created to uphold the safety of the National Airspace System (NAS) through building awareness and education regarding the safety impact of distractions, with an emphasis on electronic distractions.

We have come a long way since our first meeting. We have increased education and awareness through our profession and personally briefed thousands of controllers. We have visited scores of facilities and had media reminders like posters, charging stations, and signs placed in all. We have been featured in numerous trade publications both nationally and internationally. We have featured dozens of facilities and their contributions to reducing distractions in both Federal Aviation Administration and NATCA publications.

We even received a trademark patent on Jan. 6, 2016 for our name.

It is all making a difference and we are seeing it out there. But we can never rest while we move forward. We must continue to take every opportunity to increase our awareness and education regarding the safety impact of distractions. Especially as we usher in a future generation of air traffic controllers.

We have primarily focused on the impact of electronic distractions but those are not the only kind of distractions that can impact us. Every day we are faced with many types of distractions, both duty and non-duty.

Some examples of duty distractions are: position workload and experience level, communication, equipment (new or out-of-service), external business (visitors/tours), and on the job training (OJT). We are at much greater risk of a loss of separation during OJT because of the distraction component of some of the functions of training. Even reduced traffic volumes can provide a distraction when we work to keep our brains engaged through conversations while we wait for volume to pick up.

Non-duty distractions can also impact us and include: non-duty communication, external discussions engaged in by personnel in the operation but not plugged in, and other non-duty tasks.

We are also becoming much more aware of the distractions that can be caused by conflict. That is why the FAA and NATCA have launched the Respect initiative. The goal is establishing and supporting a workplace that creates an environment of mutual dignity, support and respect between all individuals who work to protect the NAS. When we work to remove conflict and its associated distraction, we are working to maintain and improve the safety of our system.

Distractions are all around us. We must remain ever-vigilant of their impact and mitigate them when we can. Remember, together we can continue to Turn Off distractions and Tune In to safety. Thanks for your help and keep up the good work.

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