The FAA has met its goal to hire 1,500 air traffic controllers in 2023, bringing the number of controllers currently in training to approximately 2,600. The agency set the goal as part of an effort to rebuild its training pipeline following disruptions related to COVID. The FAA noted that, due to the pandemic, it closed its training academy for six months in 2020 and paused on-the-job training at its facilities for nearly two years. According to the agency, controller certification for specific airspace positions at a facility varies from 18 to 24 months depending on airspace complexity.
“This is an important milestone as we come out of the pandemic, but there is more work to do,” said Tim Arel, FAA Air Traffic Organization chief operating officer. “We plan to hire 1,800 controllers in the upcoming year provided we receive the funding.”
As previously reported by AVweb, the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released the results of an audit assessing post-pandemic controller staffing challenges last June. The audit found that the “FAA continues to face staffing challenges and lacks a plan to address them, which in turn poses a risk to the continuity of air traffic operations,” determining that 77 percent of critical ATC facilities were staffed below the FAA’s 85 percent threshold. The OIG reported that the FAA had concurred with its two recommendations to ensure adequate staffing at critical facilities and that it considered both recommendations resolved “pending completion of the planned actions.”