Hoeven and Shaheen Introduce Legislation to Improve FAA Hiring of Air Traffic Controllers

Legislation Will Help FAA Hire More Air Traffic Controllers, Prioritize Hiring of Veterans and Graduates of FAA Certified Schools

WASHINGTON – Senators John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) today introduced the Air Traffic Controller (ATC) Hiring Reform Act of 2019, legislation to help improve the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) hiring process for air traffic controllers. The bill would ensure the agency is able to prioritize the hiring of veterans and graduates of FAA Certified Collegiate Training Initiative (CTI) schools, candidates who have a statistically lower attrition rate during qualification training at the FAA Academy. 

“Air traffic controllers play a vital role in keeping our skies safe and travel moving,” said Senator Hoeven. “The FAA needs more air traffic controllers but restrictions in the hiring process make it harder to get the qualified candidates. Our legislation reforms the hiring process to help ensure the FAA can make the most of its CTI partnerships and fully utilize this program to hire qualified individuals to fill air traffic control positions.”

“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. “I’m glad to partner with Senator Hoeven to introduce the ATC Hiring Reform Act, which will streamline the FAA hiring process and ensure the most qualified individuals are selected to serve as air traffic controllers.”

In order to help train the necessary aviation workforce, the FAA created CTI partnerships with educational institutions, including the University of North Dakota (UND) and Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), to prepare qualified candidates for ATC positions. Graduates of the CTI program are eligible to bypass the Air Traffic Basics Course, which is the first five weeks of qualification training at the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City. Students must successfully complete all required training at the FAA Academy to continue employment with the FAA.

However, under current law, the FAA is required to hire an approximately equal number of air traffic controllers from two pools of candidates. The first pool includes individuals who have graduated from a CTI program, along with eligible veterans. The second pool consists of individuals applying under vacancy announcements, or “off-the-street” hires. The difference in the number of hires between these two pools can be no larger than 10 percent. This limitation restricts the overall number of individuals hired to be air traffic controllers, as the lowest number of applicants by pool inherently limits the overall number of individuals that can be hired.

The Hoeven/Shaheen ATC Hiring Reform Act of 2019 seeks to ensure that the most qualified individuals are entering the air traffic control workforce. The bill would do this by giving hiring preference to graduates of CTI schools and veterans and removing the 10 percent limitation between hiring pools. In addition, the bill includes reporting requirements on new hire performance and attrition rates. 

“In order to meet the increasing needs of managing our skies safely and in a cost effective manner, it is imperative that the FAA hires the most qualified individuals as Air Traffic Controllers. The ATC Hiring Reform Act ensures that the most competent individuals are selected. The University of North Dakota has been educating professional Air Traffic Controllers for nearly 30 years, and is eager to see this change occur. We greatly appreciate Senator Hoeven’s ongoing leadership and support on this important issue,” said Paul Drechsel, Director of UND’s Air Traffic Management Program.

“The safety of the National Airspace System is of utmost importance to the flying public. To meet future air traffic controller staffing requirements, the FAA needs to recruit individuals with the greatest potential for success in initial training and in the field,” said Peter Wyman, Air Traffic/Aviation Management Program Coordinator for Southern New Hampshire University. “Senator Shaheen’s leadership in this area will allow a fair evaluation of candidates to ensure that the most qualified and capable individuals are entering the air traffic controller workforce.”

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