NATCA Says New Hires Will Encounter Old Problems
In what the agency
termed an effort to streamline the application process for air
traffic controllers, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
announced Friday it has created consolidated screening and testing
centers to provide "one stop shopping" for prospective new
Dubbed Pre-Employment Processing Centers (PEPCs,) the centers
couple screening and testing, and can rotate to the FAA facilities
where prospective controllers are interviewed. Instead of making
separate appointments that can take up to two weeks to complete,
the system streamlines the process.
FAA personnel tell ANN that by consolidating security
clearances, medical screenings, and fingerprinting, the agency will
be able to cut weeks off the application process -- and get new
controllers into training that much quicker.
The first center was set up at the regional FAA office in New
York, and was termed a success with over 90 prospective controllers
interviewed, according to the FAA. Other PEPCs will be held in
Florida, Atlanta, Fort Worth, and Chicago between now and the
"The FAA put out a job announcement just last month that
attracted 3,000 applicants in 15 days. The overwhelming response
for new air traffic controller positions highlights the enthusiasm,
passion and determination of our applicants," said Bobby Sturgell,
the FAA’s acting administrator. "They are ready to work and
we want to get them processed and in training as soon as
The agency says the consolidated screening process is a part of
the FAA's aggressive recruitment and hiring program. As many
veteran controllers prepare to retire in the coming years, the FAA
plans to hire more than 1,800 new air traffic controllers in 2008,
and increase total controller staffing to more than 15,000.
The National Air Traffic Controllers Association, however, tells
ANN the FAA's new streamlined application process is a little like
applying a small band-aid to a gaping wound -- it will help a
little, perhaps, but not enough to save the patient.
As ANN has reported
extensively, the union is locked in a bitter fight
with the FAA, over the new contract and work rules imposed by the
agency in June 2006, following the declaration of an impasse in
contract talks. The union believes that even if more controllers
are hired under the FAA's new program, more quickly than before,
they'll still find they're entering a hostile work environment.
"NATCA will not allow the FAA to put up these smoke screens and
try and distract attention from the real issue -- its ruthless,
draconian treatment of its current workforce that has now
needlessly risked the safety and efficiency of the system," said
NATCA spokesman Doug Church. "If the FAA truly wants to do
something to address the controller shortage, it will resume
contract negotiations with NATCA ASAP.
"That's the only hope of preventing several hundred more veteran
controllers and also frustrated and upset new hires from leaving
over the next few months," Church added. "And the only hope for the
system not to fall into further disarray and needless risk."