[Avionics Magazine 06-17-2016] National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) President Paul Rinaldi told the House Aviation Subcommittee this week that the number of fully certified air traffic controllers, already at a 27-year low, fell again in the first three months of this year. Rinaldi said the situation has reached a crisis level and outlined several recommendations, including increasing annual hiring totals and passage of bipartisan legislation, H.R. 5292, the Air Traffic Controller Hiring Improvement Act of 2016.
NATCA President Paul Rinaldi. Photo: NATCA.
Controller staffing levels have fallen nearly 10 percent since 2011, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has missed its hiring goals in each of the last seven years. In fiscal year 2015, the FAA fell 24 percent short of its hiring goal. More controllers are eligible to retire today, specifically one-quarter of the workforce, than are in the pipeline to replace them.
“If we do not act decisively and soon, I fear that our nation’s air traffic control system will soon face the same challenges and consequences as D.C.’s Metro system, which has been plagued by deferred maintenance and chronic underfunding,” Rinaldi said in his testimony for the subcommittee’s hearing, titled A Review of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Air Traffic Controller Hiring, Staffing, and Training Plans. “Without a stable and predictable funding stream for the National Airspace System (NAS), controller staffing is just the first of many NAS crises that Congress will need to resolve in the near future.”
Among the recommendations Rinaldi proposed in his testimony to address the crisis:
• Passage of H.R. 5292, which would streamline the hiring process by ensuring a path for experienced controllers to be hired quickly and allow military veterans and graduates of schools in the FAA’s Collegiate Training Initiative (CTI) to be hired more expeditiously. The legislation, if enacted, would ensure that CTI graduates and veterans are considered in a separate pool from the general public, and would increase the maximum entry age for a controller with 52 weeks experience to 35 years of age;
• Maximizing the capacity of the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City. The FAA will only have approximately 1,300 new employees enrolled at the Academy this year. The facility can accommodate up to approximately 2,000 employees per year;
• An FAA controller vacancy announcement for experienced controllers that is open and continuously maintained 365 days per year;
• The aggressive FAA recruitment of experienced former FAA controllers, military and civilian DOD controllers and Federal Contract Tower controllers; and
• Stable, predictable funding for the FAA, including ensuring that the FAA is not subject to future sequester cuts.