Federal Aviation Administration: Efforts to Hire, Staff, and Train Air Traffic Controllers Are Generally on Track, but Challenges Remain Page: 4 of 19
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based on our audit objectives. We believe that the evidence obtained
provides a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our
FAA Is Making
Progress in Hiring Air
but New Hires May
Have Less Experience
Than in Prior Years
During the coming decade, FAA will be challenged to continue hiring
thousands of air traffic controllers to replace those who will retire and
leave for other reasons. In March 2008, FAA projected that between 2008
and 2017, it will lose a total of 15,483 controllers through retirement and
other reasons, and our analysis of FAA data indicates that about
63 percent of the current controller workforce will become eligible for
retirement by 2017. However, FAA's data indicate that more controllers
are retiring sooner than FAA anticipated. As table 1 shows, the percentage
of controllers retiring within 2 years of eligibility has increased from about
33 percent in 2005 to 42 percent in 2007. For fiscal year 2006, FAA
estimated that 467 controllers would retire, but 583 actually retired-about
25 percent more than planned. For fiscal year 2007, FAA anticipated 700
controller retirements, while 828 controllers actually retired-an 18
percent increase over anticipated retirements.
Table 1: Years beyond Earliest Retirement Eligibility in Which Retirement Occurred,
2005 through 2007
Percentage of controllers retiring
Number of years
beyond earliest 2005 2006 2007
retirement eligibility retirements retirementsb retirements
0-1 23.4 % 24 % 28.9 %
1-2 9.3 % 11 % 12.7 %
Total 32.7 % 35 % 41.6 %
Source: GAO analysis of FAA data.
aBased on 2005 data.
bAverage annual percentage based on 2005 and 2006 data.
Based on 2007 data.
To replace these controllers, FAA started making significant increases in
controller hiring in fiscal years 2006 and 2007, when it hired 1,116 and
1,815 controllers, respectively. (By comparison, during fiscal years 2002
through 2005, FAA hired an average of 467 controllers each year.) FAA
plans to hire about 16,980 new controllers during fiscal years 2008 through
2017. FAA anticipates hiring 1,877 controllers in fiscal year 2008, which
would bring the total number of air traffic controllers to 15,130. Figure 1
shows the estimated numbers of losses and planned hires for fiscal years
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United States. Government Accountability Office. Federal Aviation Administration: Efforts to Hire, Staff, and Train Air Traffic Controllers Are Generally on Track, but Challenges Remain, text, June 11, 2008; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc294667/m1/4/: accessed February 18, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.