Hoeven & Shaheen Air Traffic Controller Hiring Reform Act Included in FY2020 Defense Bill, Set for Approval Next Week

Bill Addresses ATC Shortage, Benefits University of North Dakota ATC Program and Graduates

WASHINGTON – Senators John Hoeven, a member of the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee, and Jeanne Shaheen today announced that their bipartisan Air Traffic Controller (ATC) Hiring Reform Act has been included in the Defense Authorization bill, which will be considered by the Senate next week. The senators introduced the legislation to:

  • Help address the shortage of qualified air traffic controllers.
  • Ensure the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is able to hire more qualified veterans and graduates of ATC training programs, including at the University of North Dakota (UND).

The legislation would enable the FAA to prioritize the hiring of veterans and graduates of FAA Certified Collegiate Training Initiative (CTI) schools, like UND. It also removes the current 10 percent hiring pool limitation to ensure that the FAA can hire enough air traffic controllers to maintain the safest skies in the world.

“Our nation is facing a real shortage of air traffic controllers, which undermines the safety and efficiency of our air transportation system. Our legislation will help address this shortage, and at the same time, enable the FAA to hire more qualified air traffic controllers from UND’s Air Traffic Control program,” said Senator Hoeven. “CTI graduates, from UND and other schools, and veterans have a proven track record, and the limitation on hiring from these two groups unnecessarily leaves ATC positions unfilled. We appreciate our colleagues for working with us to include our bill in the defense authorization legislation, which will allow us to cut this red tape and ensure the FAA can hire the most qualified candidates.”

“Our nation’s air traffic controllers are essential to keeping our skies and passengers safe, so it’s critical that the Federal Aviation Administration has all of the tools necessary to build this dedicated workforce,” said Senator Shaheen. “The ATC Hiring Reform Act will streamline the FAA hiring process and ensure the most qualified individuals are selected to serve as air traffic controllers. I’m glad to have helped secure this bipartisan provision in the NDAA and appreciate Senator Hoeven’s partnership.”

“The University of North Dakota (UND) was one of the first FAA approved Air Traffic – Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI) schools in the nation with a history of continuously striving for excellence. The passage of the ATC Hiring Reform Act will ensure the highest quality of aviation professional, like those graduating from UND, will be hired to manage our increasingly complex airspace. We greatly appreciate Senator Hoeven’s ongoing leadership and support on this important issue ensuring that the skies are controlled safely,” said Joshua Wynne, Interim President of the University of North Dakota.

CTI program graduates and veterans have a higher retention rate during ATC qualification training at the FAA Academy. Further, CTI graduates can bypass the Air Traffic Basics Course, which is the first five weeks of qualification training at the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City. 

 However, current law requires the FAA to hire air traffic controllers from two pools of candidates – the first including CTI graduates and eligible veterans, the second of those applying under vacancy announcements or “off-the-street” – with no more than a 10 percent difference in the number of hires between the pools. The lowest number of applicants by pool inherently limits the overall number of individuals that can be hired as air traffic controllers.

Hoeven and Shaheen’s ATC Hiring Reform Act would: 

  • Give hiring preference to graduates of CTI schools and veterans.
  • Remove the 10 percent hiring pool limitation, helping ensure the most qualified individuals are entering the air traffic control workforce. 
  • Ensure that National Guard Air Traffic Controllers are given the same consideration as all other Department of Defense (DoD) Air Traffic Controllers when applying for an Air Traffic Controller position with the FAA.
  • Require the FAA to regularly provide a report to Congress on new hire performance and attrition rates. 
  • Require the Inspector General (IG) of the Department of Transportation to conduct a review and make recommendations to improve FAA pre-employment assessments.

The legislation is supported by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) and the Association of Collegiate Training Institutions.