Notes Number Of Experienced Controllers At 15-Year Low
You knew this was coming. Hot on the heels of the FAA's
announcement last week the agency had exceeded its air traffic
controller staffing targets for Fiscal Year 2007, the National Air
Traffic Controllers Association notes it's not the number of new
hires that should concern the FAA, and air travelers... but rather
the dearth of experienced controllers at the helm.
"A record number of air traffic controller retirements and total
attrition in fiscal year 2007, fueled by outrage over the lack of a
contract, soared past Federal Aviation Administration projections
by 30 percent and has left the country with both a 15-year low in
the number of fully certified controllers on the job and a glut of
new hires -- many with no air traffic control experience or
education -- that the FAA is failing to train either effectively or
efficiently," NATCA tells ANN.
The union -- locked in a bitter fight with the FAA over the
contract imposed on controllers by the agency last year, which
NATCA considers invalid -- says there were 856 retirements in
FY2007 -- representing 7.4 percent of the total experienced
controller workforce. Only 16 of those were mandatory, the union
NATCA claims that's the fourth straight year the FAA fell short
of accurately predicting retirements; the agency missed its FY2007
target by 33 percent, the union says.
"There are 11,256 fully trained and certified controllers
working at the FAA’s 314 facilities," the union says.
"That’s a four percent decline from one year ago and the
lowest total of experienced controllers since 1992 (10,696)."
NATCA President Patrick Forrey calls the situation "a problem
entirely of the FAA's making."
"It didn’t have to happen. We do not have a contract and
that is taking a very serious toll on the controller workforce and
the nation’s aviation system," Forrey said. "Only once in our
nation’s history have we seen conditions in our air traffic
control facilities that are as acrimonious, overworked,
overstressed, demoralized and angry as we do today and that was in
the period leading up to the 1981 PATCO strike. There is only one
possible solution to this crisis: We must have a contract."
NATCA also notes total controller attrition in FY07 was 1,558 --
which the union says nearly wipes out any net gains from the FAA's
reported number of new hires. As ANN reported, the FAA
claims "over 1,800" new controller hires for FY2007.
In a Monday news conference, NATCA also noted 201 resignations,
126 removals, 10 deaths... and a surprising 365 promotions to FAA
supervisory positions in FY '07. The promotions exceeded FAA
projections by nearly double... which NATCA says provides
additional proof the lack of a contract fueled the attrition surge,
as becoming an FAA supervisor is the only way a fully certified
controller can earn a pay raise, and receive cash bonuses and other
benefits under the current, imposed contract.