Aviation Safety in Airspace Controlled by Two Major FAA Facilities in the Chicago Area

T-RCED-87-2: Published: Feb 27, 1987. Publicly Released: Feb 27, 1987.

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GAO discussed the safety of air travel in airspace that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) controls through its Chicago O'Hare International Airport control tower and terminal radar control facility and its Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center. GAO found that: (1) although most personnel rated the overall safety of the air traffic control (ATC) system as adequate to excellent, personnel at O'Hare and the Center expressed concerns with the size and composition of the work force, the work load, overtime, and the training of new controllers; (2) as of January 1987, both O'Hare and the Center had fewer full-performance-level controllers than was necessary to ensure air safety; (3) in 1987, the two facilities had 150 fewer controllers than before the strike; (4) the two facilities are experiencing problems in building their staff levels and in reducing the training attrition rate; (5) controllers handled more traffic than they should have during daily peak periods and spent too much time continuously at radar positions; (6) since 1981, traffic at the airport has increased by 41 percent; (7) overtime totals at the two facilities were among the 20 highest in the country; (8) over 40 percent of the controllers and supervisors ranked training at the two facilities as less-than-adequate to poor; and (9) FAA did not believe it should restrict air traffic because its existing traffic management system prevented controllers from being overworked and the ATC system from being adversely affected.

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