The union that represents the Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controllers claims a recent report by the government watchdog is proof the agency, and Congress, must fix a "flawed model of staffing."
Rich Santa, the head of National Air Traffic Controllers Association, said that 'the status quo no longer is sustainable'. The union claims that Congress should'require FAA immediately implement' new standards of staffing and 'conduct a maximum hiring'.
Santa said that there are 1,200 less fully certified controllers than ten years ago. The FAA's flawed hiring model and inconsistent staffing has led to new hires that have not kept pace with attrition in the last decade.
CNN reported in the past that staffing problems at a key air traffic control center in Florida caused thousands of flights to be delayed over a period of seven weeks last summer. It also revealed that employees were allegedly forced to work overtime for coverage.
The Office of Inspector General of the Department of Transportation released a report last week that found that "the lack of fully-certified controllers, supervisors and traffic management coordinators poses a risk to air traffic operations." The audit found that 77% critical facilities were staffed below FAA's own threshold of 85% and 'at many facilities, controllers worked mandatory overtime and 6-day weeks to cover staff shortfalls.
Congress is reauthorizing the FAA budget. This process has been going on for some time. The union of controllers believes that the FAA can make changes without the need for further congressional study and should do so without the intervention of Congress.
The FAA claims to have 'completed an extensive review of controller distribution' and is now using a new tracking system for ATC assignments. The agency wants Congress to provide funding for the hiring of 1,800 additional controllers in the coming year, on top of the 1,500 that the agency has been funded to hire.