NATCA's Mass Retirements, FAA's Plan

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With contract negotiations stalled, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association is saying that under the last offer from the FAA, many controllers would find it in their best interest to retire before the end of next year ... leaving gaps too big for the FAA to fill with new trainees. "The safety and efficiency of the air traffic system will be dismal if this contract is imposed," Brad Rosenthal, president of NATCA's St. Louis office, told The Associated Press on Monday. If nothing changes, about one-quarter of current controllers could retire next year, the union said. The percentage could be even higher in some facilities. For its part, the FAA has this year hired more controllers than have retired and estimates more than 12,000 (the workforce is currently near 15,000 strong) will have to be hired and trained through 2014, according a column this week in The Washington Post. The FAA plans to hire more controllers than needed to make sure enough stay on and progress to the levels needed to maintain what it believes will be appropriate staffing. At the St. Louis TRACON, 29 of the 52 controllers could retire next year, the union said. The FAA plans to publish an updated staffing plan by July, spokesman Greg Martin told The Washington Post this week.