FAA Staffing:

Recruitment, Hiring, and Initial Training of Safety-Related Personnel

RCED-88-189: Published: Sep 2, 1988. Publicly Released: Sep 19, 1988.

Additional Materials:


Kenneth M. Mead
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) progress in meeting congressionally mandated staffing goals for air traffic controllers, aviation safety inspectors, and maintenance technicians, focusing on its: (1) employment qualifications; and (2) recruitment, hiring, and initial training programs.

GAO found that FAA: (1) was behind planned hiring levels for inspectors and maintenance personnel, but expected to meet fiscal year (FY) staffing goals; and (2) expects to fall 518 controllers short of its FY 1988 staffing goal. GAO also found that controller shortages resulted from: (1) the lack of a national, centralized recruitment policy and resultant failure to attract high-quality candidates; (2) the time-consuming hiring process, averaging 11.5 months before candidates enter the FAA Academy for training; (3) the large number of candidates who did not complete training; and (4) field placement of trainees without consideration of individual candidates' test scores, performance levels, and organizational and personal needs. In addition, GAO found that FAA is studying ways to redesign, reorganize, and modernize its training programs for controllers, inspectors, and technicians.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FAA has established a national recruiting program and is modifying its controller screening program. FAA hired a contractor to do a comprehensive study on recruitment. Out of this study came the appointment of a national recruitment coordinator, designated in FAA headquarters, and a prototype recruiter program has been developed. FAA plans to substantially increase the number of recruiters.

    Recommendation: To improve FAA recruitment and retention of controllers, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to develop a systematic and coordinated national recruiting strategy targeted to those individuals most likely to have the potential to be a controller. As part of such a strategy, FAA could, for example, specify standard minimum requirements for the frequency of testing and updating controller registers, canvassing schools, and job fairs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FAA is using a new screening process to help screen applicants by finding and disclosing problems in backgrounds that would affect peak performance. FAA will incorporate research on Academy failures and withdrawals into recruitment strategies and recruiter training instead of interviewers handbooks.

    Recommendation: To improve FAA recruitment and retention of controllers, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to integrate the results of the Civil Aeromedical Institute's research on Academy failures and withdrawals into its training and guidebook for interviewers so that they can better assess an applicant's qualifications.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: FAA does not plan to implement this recommendation. FAA has instituted a policy of placing Academy graduates at their location of choice rather than on the basis of test scores during screening.

    Recommendation: To the extent practicable, the Administrator, FAA, should, consistent with the agency's own placement policy, place Academy graduates at field facilities according to their performance during the screening program.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation: Federal Aviation Administration


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