DOT OIG: ATC Hiring Makes Progress, Needs Work

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The Department of Transportation Inspector General last week released a report covering FAA progress and key elements of the FAA's congressionally mandated controller workforce plan created to counter an anticipated surge in controller attrition. The report concludes that the "FAA has made significant improvements by centralizing its hiring process" and has reduced "the time and costs" to train controllers (largely through increased use of simulator training), but the report also identifies and expands on five shortcomings: staffing standards, projected retirements, controller training, productivity initiatives and costs associated with training as it relates to on-the-job training times.

To expand, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) reports that facility staffing standards remain undefined -- this precludes effective placement of new hires and so staffing ranges for each location are recommended for the FAA's next update of the workforce plan. Controller retirements in 2005 exceeded FAA projections by 36 percent -- the FAA's forecast method needs to be refined. Overall training improvements are evident, according to the OIG, but on-the-job training time is still too high -- OIG recommends that clear instructions should be issued to all facilities. The FAA's goal of reducing controller staffing were met in 2005, but increases in productivity can not be measured, because the FAA failed to define baseline metrics for measuring improvement. Finally, the FAA has not yet identified the cost of hiring and training more than 11,800 new controllers, according to the report. The bright spot, according to the report, is the FAA's controller hiring process, which has been centralized, allowing earlier management of process, earlier notice of new hires to facilities and reduced clearance time.