Hiring Rules For Controllers Eased

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College graduates with training in air traffic control now can get hired by the FAA even if more than two years have elapsed since they graduated, the FAA said last week. The change in policy is expected to give the agency more flexibility in reaching controller candidates as it prepares to hire and train 12,500 air traffic controllers over the next 10 years. "We want to leave the door open as long as possible," said FAA Administrator Marion Blakey. "By extending the hiring period, we can tap a valuable source of potential new controllers and be fair to those who have already invested in their aviation careers." The FAA has said it will hire 1,249 controllers in fiscal year 2006. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) was glad to hear of the policy change. "This is great news," NATCA spokeswoman Ruth Marlin said. "NATCA has pressed for this change because the students should not have been made to suffer because the FAA was slow in hiring ... We are very pleased the agency has lifted this unnecessary barrier to staffing the nation's air traffic control system." The new policy allows graduates of the FAA's Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative to apply for a one-year extension of hiring eligibility each year until they turn 31, the maximum hiring age for controllers. The FAA now has agreements with 13 colleges and universities to offer courses in air traffic control.