FAA Air Traffic Controller Staffing and Related Issues

T-RCED-87-42: Published: Jul 29, 1987. Publicly Released: Jul 29, 1987.

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GAO discussed the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) efforts to rebuild its air traffic controller and maintenance technician work forces. GAO found that: (1) FAA has fewer air traffic controllers handling considerably more traffic than it did before the strike; (2) FAA has met the congressionally mandated controller work-force level of 15,000; (3) although the FAA fiscal year 1988 appropriation request included 580 more controllers, the linkages between controller staffing and the level of service FAA will provide is unknown; (4) the number of controller trainees fluctuates in response to budgetary concerns and attrition; (5) some facilities cannot provide adequate coverage and qualified instructors, even with additional overtime; (6) although FAA has considered rehiring fired controllers to achieve the mandated staffing level, most of the current staff oppose rehiring because it could hurt morale; and (7) because of the staffing priorities it gives to controllers, FAA has a critical shortage of maintenance technicians and lacks an adequate training program to replace eligible retirees. GAO believes that FAA needs to explain the linkages between its rebuilding efforts and the level of service it expects to provide.

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