FAA air traffic controller staffing scrutinized by House Transportation Committee

Issues related to FAA hiring, staffing and training of air traffic controllers (ATCs) were the subjects of a House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation hearing held on Wednesday.

A Department of Transportation inspector general report recently found that the FAA continues to face challenges in ensuring fully trained ATCs, including weaknesses in determining staffing at some air route traffic control centers and anticipating requirements. The hearing, chaired by U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), was convened to explore issues related to ATCs that were outlined in the report.

U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said that aviation is a top priority for the committee.

“It’s not clear why the FAA has dropped the ball on controller hiring, placement and training given the fact that these mass retirements were anticipated for years,” Shuster said. “Many of the problems can be attributed to poor management of the sequestration, as well as the timing and poor execution of significant — and questionable — changes to the controller hiring process.”

U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL) testified at the hearing, calling for accountability and transparency in FAA hiring procedures that impact air travel safety.

Hultgren said that a six-month investigation had revealed that FAA or aviation-related employees may have given recruits access to answers on key admission tests to improve their odds of securing a job with the FAA.

“We need answers about the alleged cheating,” Hultgren said. “The FAA (admitted) the agency is unable to recover missing and ‘corrupted’ emails at the center of the alleged cheating. Do these emails demonstrate whether or not the FAA knew someone on the inside was helping people cheat?

“That is no way to run an agency that’s responsible for the wellbeing of thousands of lives every day.”

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