News Updates

A4A Launches “Staff the Towers” Campaign Urging FAA to Increase Air Traffic Control Staffing

WASHINGTON, May 21, 2024 — Today, Airlines for America (A4A) – the industry trade organization representing the leading U.S. airlines – is launching a new campaign urging the Department of Transportation (DOT) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to take swift action to address the nation’s urgent and dire air traffic controller (ATC) shortage.

A4A’s “Staff the Towers” campaign will be a multifaceted campaign to urge the DOT and FAA to fix the ongoing air traffic control staffing crisis the country faces. Information on this campaign will be disseminated through a new website, blog posts, newsletters, social media and other channels.

“We have been sounding the alarm on this issue for more than a year that our nation’s air traffic control radar facilities are understaffed and overworked,” A4A President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio said. “It’s past time Secretary Buttigieg and Administrator Whitaker take action to solve this crisis and increase staffing.”

The latest FAA Controller Workforce Plan shows the agency is still short 3,000 controllers. The 2024 FAA reauthorization law requires the agency to conduct maximum hiring and update its outdated 2014 staffing model.

This comes after a June 2023 report from DOT’s Office of Inspector General that said the FAA has made “limited efforts to ensure adequate controller staffing at critical air traffic control facilities” and the agency “lacks a plan” to address this critical issue.

Last fiscal year, the FAA netted just six certified controllers.

“The lack of ATC staffing has a direct impact on airline operations and the travelling public, which is especially concerning as we head into another record-setting summer travel period,” Calio added.

Low ATC staffing can lead to delayed and cancelled flights – at no fault of airlines and to the detriment of our passengers. Because of this, carriers have had to reduce their schedules in the New York Metropolitan area to accommodate the ATC shortage at the expense of travelers who are seeing fewer flight options in those markets.

We were pleased when Secretary Buttigieg and the FAA announced their support for the revival of the Collegiate Training Initiative (CTI) program. This trains prospective controllers while they are in college, allowing them to begin their on-the-job training in actual control towers once they graduate.

While this is an important first step in addressing the ATC shortage, not much has been acted upon since the Secretary and FAA announced the move in November 2023.

What are they waiting on?

“We greatly appreciate our nation’s air traffic control workforce and the critical role they play in keeping our skies and runways safe,” Calio said. “However, in order to ensure continued safety and efficiency – especially as we head into a record-breaking summer travel season – the DOT and FAA need to do more to make sure our radar facilities have enough controllers on the job.”

The DOT and FAA must be transparent with stakeholders and the traveling public that funds the air traffic control system about their progress in both hiring and training controllers. Simply stating that they met their goal of hiring the maximum of 1500 controllers, does not tell the story about how many of those hires actually become certified professional controllers.


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