Each day, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) controls the take-offs, landings, and flights of over 50,000 aircraft. To accomplish this mission safely and efficiently, FAA must have a sufficient number of adequately trained air traffic controllers working at its air traffic control facilities. Over the next decade, FAA will need to hire and train nearly 17,000 controllers to replace over 15,000 current controllers, most of whom will be retiring. This massive hiring effort will occur as FAA begins to implement the next generation air transportation system (NextGen), which will integrate new technologies and procedures into air traffic operations and fundamentally change the role of air traffic controllers from controlling individual aircraft to managing air traffic flow. Hence, FAA will need to train experienced controllers to use the new technologies at the same time that it hires and trains new controllers to operate both the current and the new technologies. This testimony addresses FAA's progress and challenges in hiring, staffing, and training air traffic controllers in the current air traffic control system and in preparing them for NextGen. It is based on prior GAO work, updated with reviews of FAA documents and interviews with FAA officials, controller union representatives, and other stakeholders.
Skip to Highlights