FAA Reveals 10-Year Controller Hiring Plan

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The FAA on Wednesday released its updated plan to hire air traffic controllers over the next 10 years. According to the FAA, it will hire and train more than 15,000 controllers over the next decade, starting with nearly 1,400 new controllers this year. Instead of listing a fixed optimum staffing number for each of the FAA's 314 facilities, as in the past, the new plan provides a range of numbers to give the agency greater flexibility. "Air traffic levels are very dynamic," said FAA Administrator Marion Blakey. "It is critical that we staff facilities based on actual and forecasted traffic demands. We are confident that the new controller hires will be able to meet the needs of the future." The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) was quick to dispute the plan. The FAA is not staffing to match traffic needs, but "simply staffing to budget," said air traffic controller union spokesman Doug Church. That's not what is needed to safely run the National Airspace System, he said. "The FAA's hiring plan is three years too late in arriving," he added. NATCA President Patrick Forrey will testify tomorrow before the Senate Subcommittee on Aviation and will address these issues, Church said. During a Wednesday-morning speech, Blakey disputed NATCA's views on controller staffing and hiring.