Key Issues Facing the Federal Aviation Administration's Controller Workforce

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On June 11, 2008, the Inspector General testified on key issues facing the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) air traffic controller workforce. After the massive controller strike of 1981, FAA began rapidly hiring replacements in 1982 and 1983. This created a large pool of controllers who are all becoming eligible for retirement at roughly the same time. FAA plans to hire and train nearly 17,000 controllers over the next decade to offset these retirements. As a result, the overall percentage of controllers in training has grown substantially over the past 4 years, and the Agency is now facing a fundamental transformation in the composition of its controller workforce. The Inspector General emphasized that FAA must provide sufficient training for new hires while ensuring there are enough certified controllers at its more than 300 air traffic control facilities. The Inspector General noted three areas where FAA should focus its efforts to successfully achieve this goal: (1) improving facility training, (2) addressing controller human factors, and (3) ensuring accuracy and consistency in reporting and addressing operational errors.