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FAA Is Making Progress but Improvements in Its Air Traffic Controller Facility Training Are Still Needed

Self-Initiated
Project ID: 
AV2013121

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) plans to hire and train more than 11,700 new air traffic controllers through fiscal year 2021. This presents significant challenges for the Agency, as new controllers can require more than 3 years of training to become fully certified. Given our office’s previous findings regarding FAA’s controller training program, we initiated this review to assess FAA’s progress in improving its program. We found that FAA has taken positive steps to enhance its controller training program, such as creating an Independent Review Panel (IRP) that made 49 recommendations that could significantly improve the controller hiring and training processes. However, almost 2 years after issuance of the IRP report, FAA has yet to implement any of the recommendations or establish completion timeframes. In addition, we found that FAA faces significant challenges in improving its training program, particularly its goal to reduce training times, as the average training time for new controllers rose by 41 percent between fiscal years 2009 and 2012. Challenges FAA faces include managing contract training resources, maintaining consistent leadership, measuring the impact of simulators and other training initiatives, and improving staffing composition at complex facilities through controller placement and screening programs. We made five recommendations to assist FAA in improving its facility training efforts. FAA concurred with three recommendations and partially concurred with two. We are requesting additional information for one recommendation.

Recommendations

Open

Closed

Closed on 08.27.2013
No. 1 to FAA

Reestablish a training initiatives section into the annual Controller Workforce Plan that introduces new initiatives and tracks the implementation of initiatives that are in progress.

Closed on 04.01.2016
No. 2 to FAA

Develop and implement a formal policy to identify and disseminate locally developed training initiatives for use as best practices nationwide.

Closed on 01.08.2015
No. 3 to FAA

Develop a policy that establishes how and when any national training initiatives would be measured for effectiveness.

No. 4 to FAA

Organize FAA controller training data into a single source that allows for detailed analysis of all training records for each controller.

Closed on 02.08.2016
No. 5 to FAA

Evaluate the Operational Assessment Program to determine if it can be used to improve staffing composition at all critical air traffic facilities.