Biden wants to hire 2,000 air traffic controllers in 2025

Mar 11, 2024

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The Biden administration said Monday it is seeking funding from Congress to hire another 2,000 air traffic controllers in the 2025 budget year after a series of near-miss incidents.

A persistent shortage of controllers has delayed flights and, at many facilities, controllers are working mandatory overtime and six-day weeks to cover staffing shortages. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) wants $43 million to accelerate the hiring and training of controllers.

“We need more air traffic controllers and we’re hiring as many as we can,” FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said.

Staffing issues forced the FAA to extend cuts to minimum flight requirements at congested New York City-area airports through October 2024 – allowing airlines to fly fewer flights without forfeiting take-off and landing slots.

The budget proposes spending $8 billion over the next five years – beginning with $1 billion in 2025 – to replace or modernize more than 20 aging air traffic control facilities and 377 critical radar systems.

An independent report in November listed FAA air traffic control facilities with leaking roofs, broken heating and air conditioning systems, and old surveillance radar systems that must soon be replaced at a cost of billions of dollars. It called for “urgent action” to bolster the FAA after a series of close calls involving passenger jets.

The FAA has about 10,700 certified controllers, up slightly from 10,578 in 2022, but down 10% since 2012 and about 3,000 below target.

The Transportation Department said in August it had hired 1,500 controllers for the 2023 budget year. Whitaker said Monday it expects to exceed its 2024 goal of hiring 1,800.

A USDOT inspector general’s report in June found critical air traffic facilities facing significant staffing shortages, and posing risks to air traffic operations.

Whitaker said FAA facilities are “really old” and 21 centers are already 10 years past their expected 50-year service life, “so this work has to be done.”

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Kevin Liffey)



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