DOT OIG: FAA Faces Controller Shortage

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Southern California, Atlanta, Chicago and New York were identified as areas that face the risk of having too few controllers as veteran controllers retire, according to a report (PDF) by the Department of Transportation. The FAA anticipated the problem, but efforts to train new recruits have seen too many fail to qualify for work at high-traffic facilities. To complicate matters, the report says those high-traffic facilities have seen attrition rates above the national average and many hold high numbers of controllers eligible to retire. The report concluded that "the Nation's most critical air traffic control facilities are facing significant staffing shortages" that "could lead to potential risks to their daily operations." The FAA has a different opinion and has issued a statement.

According to the FAA, the agency "continues to meet its overall goals for hiring, training time to certification and the number of certified controllers." Its training plan has produced "more than 5,000 certified professional controllers" over the past five years. According to the report, from 2008 to 2010, only 23 percent of controller trainees in the New York radar control area moved on to become certified controllers. Los Angeles posted similar numbers. The Office of Inspector General, which prepared the report for the DOT, found that "the FAA's national training program has not provided critical facilities with the training resources they need to help slow staffing shortfalls." The report recommended that "enhanced oversight of staffing and training" would be needed "to maintain continuity of air traffic operations."