Air Traffic Controller Hiring Outpaces Losses





Air Traffic Controller Hiring Outpaces Losses

By Bill Goldston



June 11, 2009, The FAA will continue to hire more controllers than it loses for the next two years, according to the agency’s updated controller workforce plan. Last year, the FAA hired 2,196 new air traffic controllers, 507 more than the number of controllers who left.

The new hires brought the FAA’s total controller workforce to 15,381. Over the past three years, the FAA has hired more than 5,500 new air traffic controllers. The agency plans to hire 3,442 controllers in the next two years against expected losses of 3,133, according to A Plan for the Future: 10-Year Strategy for the Air Traffic Control Workforce 2009-2018.

The first version of the plan was released in December 2004 as the FAA began intensive hiring to replace the large number of controllers who were hired in the 1980s and are now eligible to retire.


As the new report notes, controller retirements in fiscal year 2008 were below projected levels and were lower than retirements in the previous year. More than 2,300 controllers are currently eligible to retire, with about 1,600 more becoming eligible over the next two years.

The total controller headcount is currently at the same level as in the year 2000. However, traffic volume is about 17 percent lower than it was then. The FAA continues to hire with the expectation that traffic will rebound in the future.

As the report notes, “The FAA’s staffing needs are dynamic due to the dynamic nature of workload and traffic volume.”  The report includes updated authorized controller staffing ranges at each facility. The ranges were established because traffic and other factors are dynamic at individual facilities.

“These ranges ensure that there are enough controllers to cover operating positions every day of the year,” the report notes.

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