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Highlights

GAO reported on its study of the air traffic control (ATC) work force. GAO: (1) surveyed air traffic controllers, supervisors, and facility managers about the prevalence of certain problems; and (2) studied Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) data on staffing, overtime, and air traffic activity.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Federal Aviation Administration 1. FAA should impose restrictions on air traffic until both the number of FPL and overtime requirements meet its goals. Problems relating to both the number of FPL and overtime are most acute at the air route traffic control centers and FAA must recognize this in deciding what restrictions to impose.
Closed - Implemented
FAA is restricting traffic through improvements to its Traffic Management System, which is consistent with this recommendation.
Federal Aviation Administration 2. FAA should take into account the concerns of its controllers, supervisors, and facility managers, and reduce the total amount of time controllers are spending at radar control positions during a shift and the amount of time they are working without some sort of break during normal busy periods.
Closed - Implemented
FAA is reminding all facility managers to adhere to FAA policy regarding time-on-position limits and is using GAO-provided data to identify problem facilities. GAO work on staffing standards indicate that less time is being spent on position without a break. An upcoming GAO survey will quantify.
Federal Aviation Administration 3. FAA should take into account the concerns of its controllers, supervisors, and facility managers, and work with controllers and their supervisors to change sector configurations where sectors are handling too much traffic or are too complex. FAA should also evaluate the effectiveness of its flow control program.
Closed - Implemented
FAA is reviewing GAO-provided data to identify facilities where controllers and supervisors identified the lack of sectors as a problem and states that sectorization programs will be reviewed accordingly. FAA instituted a new program to identify maximum sector capacity levels.
Federal Aviation Administration 4. FAA should evaluate the effectiveness of its flow control program.
Closed - Implemented
FAA is using GAO-provided data to identify facilities where the flow control program was criticized by controllers and supervisors. Results of an ongoing FAA evaluation of the central flow control operation are expected. The flow control program evaluation has been completed and certain restrictions have been implemented.
Federal Aviation Administration 5. FAA should include controllers and supervisors in the process of deciding how to improve management concerns.
Closed - Implemented
FAA evaluated its facility advisory boards and human relations committees to identify which ones have had good results and the reasons why.
Federal Aviation Administration 6. To more clearly report its progress in meeting its goals, FAA should report its staffing progress in terms of the ratio of fully qualified controllers to the controller work force, exclusive of air traffic assistants, and report overtime use for controllers actually working overtime and the variations in total usage among centers.
Closed - Implemented
FAA agreed to redefine the controller workforce and report staffing progress in the manner recommended.

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