The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) late last month closed its training academy in Oklahoma City where new air traffic controller hires go to begin their careers. In addition, classroom and simulator training at air traffic control facilities also is suspended during this shutdown.
The union which represents more than 3,000 aviation safety professionals, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) said that the shutdown would negatively affect training going forward this fiscal year.
“This staffing crisis is negatively affecting the National Airspace System, and the shutdown almost certainly will make a bad situation worse,” NATCA president Paul Rinaldi said. “Even before the shutdown, controllers have needed to work longer and harder to make up for the staffing shortfall. Overtime in the form of six-day weeks and 10-hour days is common at many of the nation’s busiest and most short-staffed facilities including radar facilities in New York, Chicago, Atlanta, and Dallas. And none of the controllers forced to work during this shutdown will see pay for their hard work to keep travelers safe until the shutdown ends. This shutdown must end now.”
According to the NATCA, the latest staffing data from the FAA shows the Agency has not made up for the sequester hiring freeze and subsequent shutdown in 2013 but plans to hire over 1,400 new air traffic controller trainees in fiscal year 2019. The closure of the training academy due to the shutdown complicates that plan. Even when the shutdown ends, it will take 1-2 weeks to recall all employees and instructors.
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