WASHINGTON, D.C. – While the FAA is currently accepting applications for entry-level air traffic controller positions, this is just a step toward lessening the current nationwide controller staffing crisis, according to officials with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.
They say it will take years of “sustained hiring and successful training” to fully end the crisis.
To truly reverse it, officials with the association that represents more than 20,000 air traffic controllers, engineers, and other aviation safety-related professionals, urge Congress to pass FAA reform that will provide a “stable, predictable funding stream.”“While our controllers do an outstanding job of ensuring our National Airspace System remains the safest in the world, the FAA struggles to adequately staff many of its largest, high-volume facilities,” said NATCA President Paul Rinaldi. “There is no margin to handle additional staffing declines without causing delays and affecting system efficiency.”
Controller staffing has been a major concern for years, he said, noting it reached a “crisis level” in 2015.
“Unfortunately, there is no quick fix to this problem, because it takes years to train a controller once they are hired,” he said. “And we must continue to remain vigilant on this issue, as there are more retirement eligible controllers than the FAA has people in the pipeline to replace them. Without a stable, predictable funding stream, the problems caused by the staffing crisis are likely to get worse before they get better.”
The total number of fully certified professional controllers (CPCs) has dropped 10% since 2011 and continues to decline, NATCA reports.
The most recent FAA count indicates there are 10,532 CPCs. This number represents both a 28-year low and the continuation of a sharp five-year decline.
The lack of a stable, predictable funding stream has made these problems worse, NATCA officials say.
“Despite some incremental progress since late 2015, the current total of CPCs is more than 2,300 short of the FAA’s overall operational target of 12,896,” NATCA officials point out.
Last year, Congress passed legislation that removed some of the bureaucratic red tape involved in the FAA’s hiring process.
“The next step for reforming this broken system must be ensuring a stable, predictable funding stream that adequately supports air traffic services, staffing, hiring, and training,” officials said in a prepared release.