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GAO Report Bolsters NATCA Position on Impending Critical Air Traffc Controller Staffing Shortage - (6/17/2002)

WASHINGTON - The National Air Traffic Controllers Association reacted with enthusiasm to a General Accounting Office report, released today, which details what controllers nationwide already knew: Air traffic controller staffing is reaching a desperate stage and is forecast to get worse.

“This report says it all,” said John Carr, president of the controllers’ union. “We’re going to lose one in every three controllers we have in the next five years, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s plans are inadequate for making up for that shortfall.”

The GAO report states that 5,000 controllers - exactly one-third of the nations’ total controller workforce - may leave by 2007, a figure the GAO says is “more than two times higher than that for the past five years.” NATCA has pressed the FAA to address the shortfall, even taking the unprecedented step of making the hiring goal one of its five promises to House Appropriations Transportation Subcommittee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., during last summer’s “Gang of Six” hearings held to address aviation delays. Carr told Rogers he would ask for more controllers to deal with the impending wave of controller retirements.

Today, Carr remarked, “Consider that one promise I’m keeping right now. I’m asking for massive air traffic controller hiring to begin immediately.” NATCA and the FAA have a five-year agreement on staffing due to expire next September, but Carr noted, “In light of the GAO report, I think it’s prudent to sit down and negotiate staffing numbers immediately.”

The report noted that staffing at the busiest facilities could be impacted the worst, and also said, “The FAA has not developed a comprehensive strategy to address its impending controller needs.” Additionally, the report stated, “The FAA’s hiring process does not take into account the time necessary to train replacements.” To which Carr replied, “We’ve always said controllers are like runways - it takes three to five years to make a good one. We need to hire a bubble of controllers that will move our National Airspace System smoothly through the next decade without the turbulence of short staffing and its numerous associated problems.”

The GAO report is available online at: www.gao.gov/new.items/d02591.pdf

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