The FAA says it will actually have 200 more air traffic controllers on duty two years from now compared to today's figures as it tackles the "retirement bubble" created 25 years ago when President Ronald Reagan fired two-thirds of the agency's controllers. However, a report (3.5 Mb file) on the necessity of hiring 11,800 controllers over the next 10 years also notes that given the agency's penny-pinching of late "it will be extremely challenging to sustain the long-term hiring and training to meet the projected controller staffing requirement." Despite the challenges, the FAA says it's on track to keep the consoles manned and it's doing so with a combination of efficiency and ramped-up hiring. "The controller workforce plan ensures that the FAA will have the right number of controllers in place at the right time to address the controller retirement bubble," FAA Administrator Marion Blakey said in a news release. "We are focusing on all aspects of the process, including recruitment, hiring, training and staffing requirements." The FAA report says that a total of 2,060 controllers will be hired by the end of 2007 and that improvements in training methods and equipment should reduce the amount of time it takes to produce a traffic-ready controller. The agency has also brought the hammer down on alleged abuse of sick leave and other down time for already-qualified controllers and, among the new hires are more than 200 former automated flight service station employees who lost their jobs when Lockheed Martin took over the contract to run the FSS system.