Congressional Hearing Takes On ATC Staffing, Training

 - June 12, 2008, 12:32 PM

During a House aviation subcommittee hearing on air traffic controller facility staffing yesterday, Natca president Patrick Forrey charged that “rampant understaffing has caused a significant increase in controller workload and a subsequent need to increase the use of overtime, resulting in a dangerous and unsustainable rise in controller fatigue.” According to Forrey, “The total number of fully certified controllers left on board has fallen to a 16-year low [and] imposed work rules have hastened the decision to retire for many veteran controllers.” The FAA is hiring controllers at a faster pace, and DOT Inspector General Calvin Scovel testified that new controllers now represent 25 percent of the workforce, a figure that could rise to “30 percent of the workforce over the next four years.” However, he said, “Facility training can take up to three years and is the most expensive part of new controller training,” meaning that new controllers can’t perform anywhere near the level of the experienced outgoing controllers. FAA Air Traffic Organization COO Hank Krakowski said the agency has streamlined the training process and has “asked retired FAA air traffic controllers to return as contractors to train the new workforce.”