FORT WORTH, TX — The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today released staffing numbers for its Fort Worth high-altitude air traffic control center showing that the 359 controllers on hand are safely handling current air traffic levels as evidenced by a 28 percent decline in serious operations errors over last year.
Also today, the agency repeated its plan to hire 48 new air traffic controllers for Fort Worth Center over the next year to prepare for upcoming retirements and growing demand for air travel.
"We have the right number of people in the right place doing the right kind of work today, but we have to start now to make sure the Fort Worth Center continues to meet growing demand for air travel over the years to come," said FAA Regional Administrator Ava Wilkerson. "As today's controllers begin to retire, their replacements will already have the skills, the experience and the confidence to bring travelers home safely."
The data released today from the Fort Worth Center shows that staffing levels meet current air traffic volumes. Fort Worth Center controllers on average manage air traffic for five hours each day, which is consistent with national figures. Serious operational errors at the facility have been cut by almost 28 percent over last year, according to the data.
Since April, 11 new controllers have already begun service at the Fort Worth Air Route Traffic Control Center, also known as Fort Worth Center, which generally controls aircraft above 18,000 feet. Eight more controllers are due to arrive at the Fort Worth facility by the end of this year, and another 48 are scheduled to enter service by the summer of 2006.
The FAA's air traffic control staffing plan announced in December 2004 calls for 12,500 controllers to be hired over the next nine years. Within the plan's first two years, nearly 1,700 new air traffic controllers will be hired in fiscal years 2005 and 2006. The FAA hired 438 new controllers in FY 2005 and has appropriated funding to hire 1,249 more controllers in FY 2006. Many of the first wave of the new air traffic controllers will be placed at the agency's high-altitude air traffic control centers where the first retirements are expected.
Expanded and more advanced simulator training at FAA's Oklahoma City air traffic academy has helped FAA better train controllers in more realistic conditions more quickly than they've been trained in the past. Improvements in classroom training, increased use of high-technology simulators, and more efficient on-the-job training is expected to compress the full training process from three to five years to within two to three years, the report concludes. Other efficiencies in the screening process already have significantly slashed hiring costs and have dramatically reduced the failure rate.
The FAA's staffing plan also outlines the actions FAA will take to fully train controllers more quickly, which will ensure enough recruits are in the pipeline to replace the more than 11,000 controllers who are expected to leave the agency between now and 2014. Hiring an additional 12,500 new controllers over the next ten years takes into account increases in traffic volume, an expected five percent training failure rate, and the above normal retirement rates beyond 2014.