Controllers Retiring Faster Than Predicted

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For the second time in four months, the FAA has revised its air traffic controller retirement projections for the current 2007 fiscal year, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) said in a news release on Tuesday. According to NATCA, the changes reflect "the agency's continuing inability to get a handle on the alarming rate of retirements that rose after the FAA imposed work and pay rules on controllers against their will last September." FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown told AVweb on Wednesday that predicting retirements "is not an exact science," and the evolving numbers reflect the agency's ability to improve and refine its projections as it collects more data. A year ago, the FAA published a workforce plan that estimated 643 controllers would retire in fiscal year 2007, which runs from Oct. 1, 2006, to Sept. 30, 2007. That estimate was raised to 700 in March, and the agency now has raised its projection to 800, a 24-percent increase. Brown added that if more controllers retire than projected, "we can always ramp up and hire more people ... we have hundreds of applicants for every job we post." The agency has already hired 1,200 controllers in this fiscal year and plans to hire at least 200 more by the end of September, she said. NATCA says a large number of those new recruits will likely never become controllers and those that do will need two to three years to fully train, making them unable to help the staffing crisis until 2009 at the earliest.