Audit Reports

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Training Failures Among Newly Hired Air Traffic Controllers

Project ID: 

On June 8, 2009, we issued our report on training failures among newly hired air traffic controllers. We conducted this review at the request of Jerry F. Costello, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Aviation. The Chairman expressed specific concerns that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was facing a high number of training failures among newly hired air traffic controllers, especially at some of the busiest and most complex facilities. As requested, our audit objectives were to determine (1) the training failure rate among newly hired air traffic controllers and (2) the common causes and factors that are contributing to this rate. While FAA is still in the early stages of replacing its controller workforce, it must begin improving how it collects and categorizes data on newly hired controllers. As large numbers of new controllers enter training in the next several years, this information will be critical for FAA, Congress, and other stakeholders to determine FAA’s progress toward addressing attrition, assess training problems at individual facilities, identify needed changes to the overall training program, and monitor the performance of the ATCOTS contractor. Specifically, we found that FAA’s reported rate of training failures is not accurate because (1) FAA does not track training failures among the new controllers as a separate metric; (2) FAA’s current rate is based on FY 2007 training failures and will likely increase as FAA hires more new controllers between FY 2009 and FY 2017; (3) FAA does not have a uniform definition of training failures and other types of attrition; and (4) FAA’s training failure data in the National Training Database were incomplete, inaccurate, or understated. To address the second part of the Chairman’s request, we examined a series of factors that could indicate potential trends or root causes of training failures. We found, however, that it was premature to make such conclusions since, at the time of our review, FAA was still in the early stages of its hiring and training efforts. We are further examining this issue as part of a separate review requested by the Chairman. Our recommendations to FAA focused on developing procedures to obtain accurate data on training failures in order to effectively monitor and improve its controller training program. FAA concurred with all of our recommendations.