An August 27 report by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Inspector General (IG) concludes that none of the 49 suggestions related to the hiring and training of new air traffic controllers outlined in the FAA’s independent review panel two years ago have been implemented.
Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization
Across the U.S., in all but four states, there are no fewer than 250 airport towers operated by non-FAA controllers employed by three private FAA contractors. The towers provide ATC services to a wide range of users, including general aviation, passenger and cargo airlines and the military.
A shortage of controllers at Chicago Center and an uptick in air traffic in that sector are a prescription for disaster that the FAA has so far ignored at the expense of public safety, claim officials for the air traffic controllers union.
The unions representing nearly 20,000 employees of the FAA have joined in a coalition “to hold the FAA accountable” for meeting its modernization goals and to improve working conditions at the agency. The coalition represents the largest group of organized employees at the FAA.
The FAA could face a shortage of air traffic controllers in the next decade unless it makes more adequate plans to replace as many as 11,000 current controllers who could leave the agency by 2012, the General Accounting Office (GAO) has warned Congress. And that attrition could affect the safety of the ATC system and increase air traffic delays.
The General Accounting Office warned the FAA that unless it makes better plans to replace the 5,000 air traffic controllers expected to retire over the next five years, there might be a shortfall that could affect the safety of the ATC system and increase air traffic delays.
The FAA will be able to cope with the loss of almost half of its air traffic controller workforce over the next nine years if it can keep better track of attrition by locale and assess a new controller’s potential to certify at a certain ATC facility level, according to the Transportation Department’s office of inspector general (OIG).
In 1981 President Reagan fired virtually all aircraft traffic controllers and banned them from reapplying for controller jobs after their union, the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Association (Patco), convinced them to strike. While nearly 800 Patco controllers have been re-hired since President Clinton lifted the ban in 1993, “thousands” of others have not been hired because of their age, Patco said.
In the late 1970s, Continental Airlines president Frank Lorenzo used a court of law to confront his pilots with an existing, although seldom used, negotiating technique, abrogating their contract when he was unable to secure an agreement through traditional collective bargaining. He quickly replaced his then striking workers with a non-union workforce willing to accept his management style and pay scale.
The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (Natca) called the FAA’s imposition of new work rules over the Labor Day weekend “a brazen, arrogant trampling of the collective bargaining system” and a threat to the safety and efficiency of the National Airspace System.