ATC, User Fees, And The FAA's Plan...

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Who Will Pay For 12,500 "New" Controllers

During a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, John Carr, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), said he believed the FAA's 10-year air traffic controller staffing plan announced on Tuesday could lead to general aviation's being charged for services provided by the FAA. "This is the kind of report that opens the door to user fees," Carr said. Under the plan, the FAA hopes to hire a total of 12,500 new controllers over the 10 years to replace 11,700 who will likely retire. But user fees for GA are not part of the plan (at least not yet). FAA chief spokesman Greg Martin told AVweb Wednesday that any suggestion of user fees being implemented in the near future is wrong. "No, not at this time. Let me be emphatic about that," he said. In a news release, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey said a key component to the plan is a revamped training program that will see new controllers fully qualified in two to three years rather than the three to five years that is typical now. The agency also plans more elaborate candidate screening and more simulator training to make training more efficient and cut the failure rate to 5 percent. Carr said he'll believe it when he sees it. He said fewer than half of those who enter ATC training end up fully qualified because of the unique demands of the job.