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Oakland Center Air Traffic Controller Staffing Shortage Grows Worse; Trainees Cite FAA's Imposed Work Rules as Reason for Their Resignations - (5/10/2007)

CONTACT:     Scott Conde, NATCA Oakland Center, 510-673-0237; Hamid Ghaffari, NATCA Western Pacific Regional V.P., 661-400-2496 

, Calif.
– The continuing air traffic controller staffing crisis at Oakland Air Route Traffic Control Center (ZOA) has gotten worse thus far in fiscal year 2007 with the loss of 19 controllers and trainees and the expected loss of as many as two to three dozen more by the end of this year.  

The facility has 162 fully certified controllers on staff, along with a staggering total of 119 developmentals (trainees) that has negatively affected the training process. NATCA expects that at least a quarter of the developmentals will not successfully complete their training and have to leave the facility. 

Thus far this fiscal year, two controllers have retired, five have been promoted to supervisor positions and five have been transferred out of the facility. There have also been seven resignations, including three that were developmentals and documented their departures in the attached letters to Federal Aviation Administration management. All cited challenges and struggles due to the FAA’s imposed work and pay rules on controllers as the primary reason for their resignations. Four more resignations are likely in the next few weeks. 

In addition, 42 of the fully certified controllers on staff will reach retirement eligibility between now and the end of this calendar year. NATCA expects that because of the lack of a contract with the FAA, at least half of these controllers will leave and quite possibly several more.  

The FAA for many years agreed to staff the facility with 268 controllers, which NATCA believes is still the proper amount needed to ensure a safe and effective operation. However, as part of a wholesale reduction in staffing standards nationwide in March to reflect the reality of a staffing crisis, the FAA announced that Oakland Center’s new staffing “range” should be 175-213 controllers, a woefully inadequate number according to NATCA that is not based on any solid facts or research and is simply staffing to budget. A facility like Oakland Center that is responsible for the airspace above 10 percent of the earth’s surface, needs more.

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