FAA Offers Recruiting Bonus for Experienced Controllers

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The FAA is offering experienced air traffic controllers (military or civilian) a $20,000 signing bonus if they'll come back to the console for as little as two years. In an announcement on its own recruiting site and on the federal government's Office of Personnel Management site, the FAA is offering the carrot in what appears to be an attempt to get traffic-ready controllers in position to quell an increasing shortage of veterans. The ad specifies that only those who have worked as fully certified controllers for 52 consecutive weeks in the past two years will qualify for the bonus and that they will undergo training to bring them fully up to speed for the areas they'll work.

FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said the incentive is mainly aimed at attracting military controllers, and she said the competition is intense. The military is offering retention bonuses for its experienced controllers, and the private company that is training new recruits for the FAA is also looking for veterans. "This [the bonus] is just a way of remaining competitive," Brown told AVweb. In the meantime, she said, there is no shortage of raw recruits for entry-level positions and thousands have applied for the trainee jobs offered in a nationwide recruiting program.

The announcement appeared as the National Air Traffic Controllers Association released figures it says represent a massive increase in overtime payments at the Atlanta terminal radar approach control center (TRACON). According to NATCA, the FAA paid about $865,000 in overtime at Atlanta between October and March, seven times the amount spent in the same period last year. The union says the overtime has increased because the number of qualified controllers has slipped to critical levels. It quoted its representative, Jim Allerdice, as saying controllers are working exhausting schedules under difficult conditions compounded by severe weather. "We were already working six-day weeks and 10-hour days and then you throw the thunderstorms on top of that and you end up with extremely stressful and heavy, complex traffic periods," Allerdice said. "Having to do that for extended periods of time wears on you."