Panel Recommends Changes in Air Traffic Controller Training

"This report shows us we are doing a great job, but there are things we can and will do better,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Randy Babbitt recently announced a set of recommendations from an independent panel on how to improve all aspects of an air traffic controller’s experience at FAA, including hiring, training, placement, and career development.

“Our air traffic controllers do a phenomenal job every day helping passengers reach their destinations safely,” Babbitt said. “As we move toward NextGen, we need to make sure that our controllers are getting the best training possible. This report shows us we are doing a great job, but there are things we can and will do better.”

The panel reviewed FAA’s process for selecting air traffic controllers, the academy training program, collegiate training initiative programs, controller selection and placement in air traffic facilities, on-the-job training, air traffic controller professional standards, and the FAA organizational structure that oversees controller training and placement.

FAA is currently reviewing the panel’s nearly 50 recommendations and is developing an action plan for addressing them.

Some of the recommendations include:

  • Conduct more stringent evaluation and tracking of the curriculum used at collegiate air traffic control training programs around the country.
  • Develop a standardized “advanced” training course controllers are required to take before they are sent to their permanent field facility to ensure that every controller arrives with the same set of skills.
  • Establish a yearly refresher training course for senior controllers who serve as field instructors for new controllers.
  • Create mobile simulator labs to ensure that controllers in smaller facilities have equal access to simulator training technology.

Babbitt commissioned the independent review panel this spring as part of the FAA’s and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association’s (NATCA) Call to Action on air traffic controller safety and professionalism.

The members of the panel were: Michael Barr, University of Southern California Aviation, Safety & Security program; Dr. Tim Brady, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University; Garth Koleszar, NATCA; Dr. Michael New, Aveos Fleet Performance Inc.; and Dr. Julia Pounds, FAA. The panel will submit a report to Babbitt this fall.

A copy of the FAA independent review panel report on the selection, assignment, and training of air traffic control specialists can be found here: FAA Independent Review Panel on the Selection, Assignment and Training of Air Traffic Control Specialists.

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