The National Air Traffic Controllers Association urged the Senate appropriations transportation subcommittee to ask FAA Administrator Marion Blakey what the agency plans to do about “the looming air traffic control staffing crisis.” The association anticipates a personnel shortage of up to 50 percent in the next 10 years. “This is of particular concern because it takes up to five years to train a controller,” said NATCA president John Carr.
National Air Traffic Controllers Association
The Bush Administration alarmed a number of people early last month when it proposed cutting the FAA’s facilities and equipment (F&E) funding by nearly $400 million in its budget request for fiscal year 2005.
The National Air Traffic Controllers Association filed a lawsuit in late January asking a federal court to order the Federal Service Impasses Panel to resolve a bargaining issue between NATCA and the FAA that affects employees at 11 facilities. NATCA also named the Federal Labor Relations Authority in its suit.
In the ongoing saga of air traffic controller staffing, the FAA announced yesterday as part of its 10-year forecast that it is increasing controller hiring to better meet attrition and increasing system demand. The agency’s updated Air Traffic Control Workforce Plan now specifies the need for 15,000 new controllers over the next decade, up from previous plans for 12,500 new controllers over a similar period.
The NTSB will hold a one-day forum on March 27 focusing on runway incursions and accidents and potential solutions. “Eliminating runway incursions and collisions is a top priority of the Safety Board and has been on our Most Wanted List since 1990,” said NTSB chairman Mark Rosenker, who will preside over the forum.
With input from NBAA, the FAA has taken steps it hopes will reduce air traffic congestion this winter between the Northeast and Florida. So-called "Snowbird" routes between general aviation airports and Florida destinations can become clogged by significant volume increases between November and March, and crippling ground stops have resulted. Key choke points were identified as the ELIOT, WHITE and WAVEY intersections.
The NTSB expressed disappointment last month over the FAA’s alleged foot-dragging on several safety recommendations, and the safety agency changed the classifications of the FAA’s responses from “acceptable” to “unacceptable.”
Although the FAA needs to hire 11,800 new controllers through Fiscal Year 2015 to replace retirees and other vacancies, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (Natca) noted the agency’s own FAA Administrator’s Fact Book (a quarterly publication) reports that the overall total number of controllers dropped from 14,227 at the end of FY2005 to 14,206 in FY2006.
Last year, the Bush Administration unveiled its proposed “next generation air transportation system” and then cut the FAA’s facilities and equipment (F&E) budget request by nearly $400 million.
The FAA’s budgetary woes are but one symptom of the U.S. fiscal freight train that has been speeding down the track with ever greater wobbles since 9/11.