...Confusion Over ATC Hiring Numbers...

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The budget plan drew a swift response from the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), which was looking for proof that the FAA will deliver on its promises. The FAA said in December it will hire 1,249 air traffic controllers in fiscal year 2006 -- but the budget proposal showed a request to fund only 595 new hires. "Woefully inadequate doesn't even begin to describe this latest bait and switch," said NATCA President John Carr. FAA spokesman William Shumann told AVweb the FAA is not backing off from its commitment. The 595 new hires in the budget are in addition to the current workforce. The other 654 controllers to be hired this year will fill positions that already exist, as replacements for controllers lost due to attrition. The funding for those positions is already available elsewhere, Shumann said. NATCA spokesman Doug Church told AVweb he'd rather see it in writing. "Apparently, the FAA is asking us all to take their word for it that they'll actually replace all 654 they say will leave next fiscal year, which is tough to do when you consider this agency lost more than 500 controllers through attrition in fiscal year 2004 and hired only 13."