FAA Meets 1,500-Controller Hiring Goal


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.”

Kate O'Connor
Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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  1. After Ronald Reagan fired 11.000 Professional Air Traffic Controllers in 1981 and replaced them with military scabs, when their demands were quite reasonable, absolutely nobody wants to become an Air Traffic Controller.. esp. not without Labor Union Representation, and not with the legal and moral responsibility of thousands of lives at a time while being over worked and underpaid and exhausted.

    You would be a fool today to chose this career path. The only thing worse would be to join the US military where you can be uprooted at any time and deployed to a war zone where you would get actually shot at.

    Worse, this action by Reagan had a chilling effect and eroded the power of Labor Unions throughout the United States, and the United States has never recovered. You can find many Youtube videos about it on Youtube if you search for Ronald Reagan and the PATCO Air Traffic Controllers Strike, or look up the PATCO article on Wikipedia. The FAA is now universally hated… not just by previous air traffic controllers and their families, but now by pilots because of all the stifling rules and ADBS requirements, and drone pilots for their ludicrous Remote-ID initiatives against freedom.

    No, before the FAA hires anyone, they have a lot of atonement to do for their sins. First to the air traffic controllers and their families. Second, to the labor unions and movements and labor force of America. Third, to air travelers everywhere by unnecessarily putting their lives in greater danger by hiring less than adequately trained scabs.

    • Choppergirl. I just wouldn’t know where to begin. So don’t believe I will. Former 38 years of USAF and FAA…and loved every minute of it…well, mostly.

    • It was an illegal strike. Poli was asked that very question a few days before the strike. His arrogant answer was: “The only illegal strike is one that doesn’t succeed.”

      There were no scabs. Scabs are workers who cross the picket line of a legal strike.

      This illegal strike caused havoc in the U.S. ATC system for a long time. It forced my airline to reduce schedules, which caused me to be downgraded. I lost salary that could never be made up.

    • I wish I could write what I feel like saying to you but I’ll be polite. Stating that military controllers were scabs is so ignorant. You need to look up what a scab is. I was a US Air Force controller who was sent on temporary duty twice to operating a control tower during the strike. Military controllers, actually military period (no matter your job), are ordered to deploy, we have no choice. In the beginning military controllers were harassed by striking controllers but then PATCO told the strikers to lay off, explains how the military operates.

      Next you insult the military. I spent 20 years in the Air Force and it was my choice. Today the military is voluntary so it’s a persons choice to serve or not. It sounds like you hate our country. Why don’t you leave America if it’s not what you want it to be.

      As far as unions, after the Air Force I flew for an airline for 24 years and was a member of ALPA. You sound a lot like a few fired controllers that flew for my airline, disgruntled and bitter. Were you one of the fired controllers? Maybe ex-military too?

      • “Why don’t you leave America if it’s not what you want it to be?”

        What an un-American thing to say. When I see that my country isn’t what I want it to be, I work to make it better. Responding to other people pointing out flaws by trying to get them to leave is the farthest thing possible from working toward a better America.

    • Wow… You’ve obviously got a bit of an axe to grind.

      An illegal strike by employees who had agreed to that restriction.

      What we need today is a president who will stand up to unions who have too much power over the public sector, where there should NEVER be ANY unions.

      And what has the military (all volunteer now) to do with this?

      Don’t know who peed in your Cheerios, but maybe you need to find someone to talk about this with. Because it sure isn’t just about this subject.

    • Choppergirl you may want to switch to something decaf, maybe an herbal tea? You certainly released a ton of energy with your post! Honestly, I hope you were not one of those who were led (coerced) astray and lost your job in 1981 because, you are correct, some of the 11K didn’t deserve to be fired.

      PATCO gave notice several times of their intent to strike and the FAA prepared. Each controller was given the opportunity to review the original document they signed agreeing to not strike against the Federal Government, and they resigned new documents. PATCO knew it was illegal to strike, each controller knew it was illegal to strike.

      They struck on a Monday morning. The military was deployed (didn’t matter if they agreed with the strike or not, the military controllers followed orders to be there, they were not scabs!). What many people forget is that Reagan gave the striking controllers until Wednesday to return to work before they would be fired. In essence, Reagan tacitly allowed PATCO to engage in a strike Monday and Tuesday without penalty! Some did return during that 48-hour period though the majority didn’t.

      Even then President of PATCO, Robert Poli, would soon acknowledge they should not have gone on strike.

      As for not having labor union representation, I have a NATCA gold membership card that proves your statement false.

      Is the FAA perfect? It wasn’t, it isn’t, and likely never will be. That said, a 30+ year career that I’m proud of and would do over again.

  2. There are exceptions. This fool served 20 years in the army and loved my career path, proudly serving my country. It’s not for everyone, but I knew that already.
    I’ve trained, tested, and otherwise crossed paths with thousands of pilots. There are the haters and lots of grumbling, but generally we respect the fact that the FAA has a tough job to do with resources that are always less than what is needed.

  3. Not represented by a union? NATCA is one of the most influential unions representing Government workers, testifying before Congress regularly, extremely well funded, and powerful. They set the tone in all of the training programs across the nation. As a FPL at a large ARTCC for 28+ years, working most of those years as an OJTI and, later, a training specialist, I can assure you there is a huge union presence in every part of the FAA.

    ATC is an incredibly rewarding job for those with the correct aptitude. If you like the rushes, love the challenge, and enjoy teamwork then it is a fantastic choice. If you cannot deal with the immediate pressure, constantly changing conditions, and the swamp of a bureaucracy that is the FAA, don’t even think about it. It has nothing to do with IQ, but has everything to do with attitude. You either eat up the job, or it devours you.

    If you would like to know who would want the job, anyone who wants a job that pays six figures, has a great pension and an extremely attractive 401K or Roth plan (TSP), excellent healthcare, and never worry about job security, that’s who would want it.

    But can you deal with the pressure? Don’t worry, though, if you can’t, just go into management. Like all great bureaucracies, they follow the Peter Principle to a tee; keep promoting a worker until he reaches a position that he can no longer be successful, then leave them in that position. Promote to the level of failure.

  4. Wow, someone certainly stirred up the anthill on this one! As I recall, President Reagan warned the union brass about striking, but they called his bluff and struck anyway. Turned out he wasn’t bluffing.

  5. With 34 years of FAA time, I have seen this story so, so many times. “Hey guys, hang in there, help is on the way. This time next year….” And yes, 1,500 hired and 2,800 in training. As the article said, that training will take from 18 to 24 months. But I don’t see this mentioned. In that period of time how many controllers presently FPL and on duty will retire, how many? And with the training of these new 2800 controllers, statistically how many will not be successful. At the busy facilities, the ones needing the staffing, that failure rate is traditionally very high, and like being an airline pilot, wouldn’t want it any other way. So now, real time help in any reasonable time frame, not there. And in two years, subtracting the training failures and retires, how many new positions have actually been filled then. And back to the needs, many, many smaller or lower activity facilities are easily filled. The busy or hard ones, not. Persons don’t want to go there or are just not capable. So, “we’ve hired this many” doesn’t mean doodly squat without the rest of the story. Who used to say doodly squat? I’m going to start using it frequently. I grew up Southern Calif ’50s/’60s where “bitchen” was the word. When ATC now clears me to do something I like, I’m going to just say, “bitchen man”. I believe I drifted.

    • We all know you can meet nearly any recruiting goals when you have nearly unlimited OPM (Other People’s Money) and can lower your standards to do so.

    • Roger, I believe the term is diddly squat. Otherwise, you’re right on target. Some things just never change and FAA ATC hiring is one of them. Their version of hiring doesn’t tell the whole story. Let’s see FPL levels at the critical facilities and how that’s changed this year. Yes, it was a great career with all kinds of obfuscations by the FAA, and loads of promises never delivered. If you want something done right, don’t call on a government agency.

  6. How many certified in the last year? That is the question. The FAA often mentions how many controllers they have, but they often fail to mention the number of certified controllers that are actively working traffic. There needs to be an investigation into the number of errors that are occurring. The training of controllers and the quality of those controllers. NATCA used to promote safety, now they protect the worst of the people working dragging safety down. The controllers of today are an embarrassment.