FAA Mandates Monthly Refreshers For Controllers


All air traffic controllers will attend monthly retraining sessions in response to a spate of potentially serious runway incidents that occurred in the winter and early spring. The FAA announced the Stand Up For Safety program on Wednesday and said it was developed in conjunction with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA). “To reach our goal of zero close calls, everyone must stay sharp,” said Tim Arel, the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization chief operating officer. “This training will give us an opportunity to focus on safety with our entire workforce.” 

The sessions start in July and the first ones will deal with airfield and runway operations to address the incursion issues. After that “data and seasonal challenges will determine topics each month.” The program also includes a new Voluntary Safety Reporting Program that will “identify potential safety hazards and ensure corrective actions are taken.” From December to March there were at least six serious mishaps that required airliners and cargo planes to take evasive action to avoid collisions. A safety summit in March resulted in a series of measures to mitigate identified hazards and the agency set a goal of entirely eliminating close calls.  

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

Other AVwebflash Articles


  1. Russ,
    “From December to March there were at least six serious mishaps that required airliners and cargo planes to take evasive action to avoid collisions.”

    From my safety school days “Mishap” is used for an accident. ie; bent planes and or bodies. I don’t know if that is your word choice or some one else but I believe you are referring to incidents not accidents.
    Keep up the great work!
    PS Accident isn’t used because that means its an act of god and not preventable, ALL mishaps are preventable if you can break the chain of events.

    • If the controller was wearing a tie, it’s an incident.

      If the controller was not wearing a tie, planes fall from the sky, radios and GPS gets jammed, ADS-B gets spoofed, STARS gets hacked, and the SUP slips on a jelly donut.

    • Please tell me that someone grabbed a commercial stock photo of “people in a control tower”. If so, shame on them.

      I totally disagree with “the clothes make the controller”. But what will piss off a professional is to be told that appearance will graded along with performance. The guy in the background of the photo is decently covered, comfortable, and presumably clean. Unless a controller’s appearance causes a problem with the rest of the staff, don’t go looking for management fights. Do you really want to make it harder to hire?

    • I know I’d never take direction from someone unless they are wearing a white, short sleeve, button up shirt and a black pencile necktie. The more pencils and pens in the pocket protector the better.

      I know they are taken aback somewhat when I ask over the radio “what are you wearing”, but hey, I’m the PIC.

  2. There is already a shortage of qualified controllers. This monthly “refresher” will exacerbate that shortage.

  3. We are so short at my SoCal VFR Tower, that we can’t get time off position for the half dozen refresher lessons due by the end of the month. That is, unless the FAA wants us to give up our breaks and lunches. “The beatings will continue, until morale improves.”

  4. I recently took a tour of a control tower. The staff looked like they either just graduated high-school or college.

    I was hoping to see at least one senior employee, teaching the younger ones. Wasn’t happening. Not good….

    • That by itself doesn’t mean much. We successfully landed humans on the moon with flight controllers mostly in their 20s. More important is the drive, dedication, and training they have.

      That being said, I have noticed many of the newer controllers at my local tower become easily overwhelmed. But I feel that has more to do with the controller shortage and people being hired on that in the past never would have been considered (but having nothing to do with race or diversity inclusion).

  5. I agree that an improved dress code will change the attitude in the cab and on the floor. More training is always a good thing. What they are trained on will be key.

    I’m also concerned with FAA diversity hiring practices. Like airline pilots, doctors, and engineers, we need the best and brightest. Race, gender, and other diversity concerns should NOT be included in that consideration.

    • The next monthly safety brief:

      “We had 6 close calls last month but hey, every one in the cab was wearing a suit and tie”.

      Honestly, I just turned 50 and still do not understand this mentality. Those who can not manage have meetings. Those who don’t know their job and/or do it poorly, complain about dress codes and who takes vacation time.

      • Seriously. Some of these commenters wouldn’t be placated by anything less than suit, tie, fedora, and cigar.

    • Wow, I dont even know where to begin. Dress code doesnt make anyone better in any job, period. Would you somehow be a worse pilot if you were wearing board shorts everyday? Idiotic comment deserves and idiotic response. Personal accountability and integrity along with a baseline of skills and problem solving make better controllers. The new generation of controller is a different breed. Moreover, the failed hiring practices from the last 15 years at the agency has contributed to the majority of the problem by mass hiring inept people off the street and trying to backfill for attrition from the PATCO firings. Delays in training from COVID made it unrecoverable, so they are throwing more and more warm bodies at the problem spending millions and millions of dollars training people that take on average 2+years to certify IF they get to the point of certifying. Most facilities are working 6 day work weeks with 72% Supervisor staffing agency wide. Ill be glad to retire in 4 years before the ship actually starts sinking, right now its listing heavily. As far as the refresher training….its a box checking exercise nothing more nothing less. My comments are of my own and not those of the agency.

    • Diversity hiring, otherwise known as Affirmative Action is nothing more than a prejudice based hiring practice based on ones ethnicity(underrepresented) instead of skill and qualifications. Its wrong, its reckless, and outright outlandish. Either you have what it takes or you dont, skin color/ethnicity be damned.

  6. I retired early due to the lowering of standards #1 To be hired, and @2 Checking
    people out to be controllers that should not even be in the building. I loved
    my job, but got VERY tired of carrying people who should not be there. Job
    ability came second to having a warm body to sit in the seat. They stopped
    monthly training YEARS ago due to not having enough people and it takes
    about 2 years to make a half-way decent radar controller. Stand-alone ATCTs
    are different. This is my opinion .. YMMV (G)

  7. Hopefully the training will include information like, it takes more than just ‘having the takeoff numbers’ for a different runway before a different runway can be used. Reprogramming and potentially running a checklist to verify the changes may be required, neither of which can be done instantly.