The National Air Traffic Controllers Association says the FAA’s math is a little fuzzy (or selective) and the reality is there are now almost 1,100 fewer controllers (or 7 percent) on duty today than there were three years ago. “And that’s a problem, because we certainly have not seen a 7-percent decrease in traffic volume,” NATCA spokesman Doug Church told AVweb. “Quite the contrary, in many locations. So you have fewer controllers working more traffic than ever before.”
Church said the FAA also seems to underestimate just how upset the membership was when working conditions (the FAA’s contract) were imposed on them in June. Church predicts many members will head for the door as soon as their retirement numbers add up. Church said 25 percent of controllers will be eligible to retire by the end of 2007 and he noted that at the Dallas TRACON, seven controllers have left since July when the FAA began implementing the terms of the imposed contract.
“They are dangerously close to the edge as far as the absolute minimum number of controllers needed just to safely operate the system each day,” Church said. He also said it remains to be seen whether the hiring goals set out in the plan actually survive the budget process, noting that hiring totals for 2005 and 2006 were trimmed substantially.