Busiest Facilities Reportedly Suffering Shortage of Air Traffic Controllers

A DOT assistant inspector general told a congressional subcommittee that the problem demands "urgent attention."

According to a Dec. 8 Associated Press news story, a government watchdog testified this week that 13 of the nation's busiest air traffic control facilities are suffering from a shortage of air traffic controllers. Joan Lowy reported that Matthew Hampton, a U.S. Department of Transportation assistant inspector general, told members of the U.S. House Transportation & Infrastructure's aviation subcommittee that the number of fully qualified controllers is "below the minimum staffing requirements" and that the issue demands "urgent attention."

Separately, Committee Chairman Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., said Dec. 8 that a new Government Accountability Office report "highlights the need for Congress to take a comprehensive look at reforming the FAA after decades of budget uncertainty and inability to meet its critical deadlines."

Hampton said the reasons for understaffing are a lack of precision in FAA's models for estimating staff requirements; failing to fully use systems to determine the best controller schedules; lack of accurate and complete data on planned retirements; and poor communication between FAA headquarters and field offices.

Lowy also reported that the National Air Traffic Controllers Association has also complained that the busiest facilities, including New York, Chicago, and Dallas, are understaffed and that one-third of FAA's 10,900 controllers are eligible to retire and new controllers have high failure rates.

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