FAA addresses shortage of air traffic controllers with faster job pathway

The Federal Aviation Administration will expedite the pathway to a controller tower for graduates of college and university air traffic controller training programs. 

The move is an attempt by the FAA to ease what is currently a 2,500-person shortfall of U.S. air traffic controllers, approximately 20% below its staffing target. 

Under the streamlined process, graduates of programs that are part of the Air Traffic-Collegiate Training Initiative Partnership Program (CTI) will be able to bypass the 16-week FAA Academy training in Oklahoma City that is typically required of new hires. 

Instead, the nation’s 28 CTI schools will have the option to provide the training that is currently provided in Oklahoma City. CTI is a nonfunded partnership between the FAA and the selected participant program. 

Aspiring controllers who complete a CTI program will still be required to pass the Air Traffic Skills Assessment test. 

The FAA announced the expedited CTI process two days after the National Airspace System Safety Review Team submitted a report to the agency that was spawned by a surge in high-profile close calls involving commercial aircraft early this year. The controller shortage was a major focus in the Safety Review Team Report. 

The FAA has not said how many aspiring controllers are likely to be able to take advantage of the new expedited track in the coming year. But the initiative drew praise from trade group Airlines for America (A4A), which lobbies for the largest U.S. airlines.

“A4A has been working with the FAA and the current CTI institutions to reinvigorate the program to allow for qualified graduates to be hired directly into FAA facilities,” the trade group said. “Carriers thrive when the system thrives, and addressing the air traffic controller shortage is critical to preserving and expanding a healthy aviation system. A4A sees CTI as the first of many initiatives for industry and government to work on together to keep our system safe.”

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