Senate Commerce Committee Passes Hoeven Legislation to Address Shortage of Qualified Air Traffic Controllers

Senator’s Bipartisan Bill would Allow FAA to Prioritize Hiring Veterans & Graduates from CTI Schools like UND

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven (R-N.D.) today issued the following statement after the Senate Commerce Committee passed the Air Traffic Controller (ATC) Hiring Reform Act of 2019, bipartisan legislation he introduced with Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) to help address the shortage of qualified air traffic controllers. 

The legislation would enable the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to prioritize the hiring of veterans and graduates of FAA Certified Collegiate Training Initiative (CTI) schools, like the University of North Dakota, which have a higher retention rate during ATC qualification training at the FAA Academy. This legislation 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.

“UND is a world leader in aviation and aerospace education, and it only makes sense that we use CTI schools like this to ensure our nation has an adequate supply of quality air traffic controllers,” Hoeven said. “Our bill removes red tape and allows the FAA to fill a greater share of its ATC positions with candidates from these institutions. Doing so will preserve the safety of our nation’s airspace and help provide a better air travel system for people across the country.” 

The FAA’s CTI partnerships help the agency train the aviation workforce and prepare qualified candidates for ATC positions. CTI program graduates can 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.

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 to be air traffic controllers.

Hoeven’s ATC Hiring Reform Act, as amended 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.