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ICYMI: Shaheen Introduces New Legislation to Address Air Traffic Controller Staffing and Increase Transparency in Hiring Process

(Washington, DC) -- U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced legislation to address air traffic controller staffing and increase transparency in the hiring process. Shaheen’s new legislation would amend the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Reauthorization and require the FAA to adopt air traffic controller staffing targets based on a new collaboration between the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) and the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization (ATO). Shaheen’s legislation would work to fill urgent staffing needs with qualified air traffic controllers through a collaborative approach.

Kevin Landrigan with the Union Leader has the full story, which is available here or in full below:

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., said legislation she has proposed would require that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) set rigorous hiring targets to address the air traffic controller staffing issues that have disrupted air travel in recent years.

The legislation would compel the Air Traffic Organization or management division in the FAA and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), the AFL-CIO union that represents the controllers, to work together on a needs assessment about staffing and to set hiring targets across the country.

These new targets would be contained in the annual Controller Workforce Plan, Shaheen said.

This process would increase transparency and help the agency better respond to specific workforce needs at U.S. airports, she said.

“Air traffic controller staffing has been under strain for many years. Like many other pre-existing challenges in our communities, the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the issues facing recruitment, training and staffing processes for these crucial roles,” Shaheen said.

“It is past time that we address these concerns head on.”

The NATCA union praised Shaheen’s efforts.

“Congress and the flying public deserve a completely transparent analysis of how many fully certified controllers are needed at each facility to meet all operational, statutory, and contractual requirements to ensure that the U.S. National Airspace System remains the gold standard for the world,” the union said in a statement.

There has been a 10% cut in fully certified controllers over the last decade. This caused significant delays during last summer’s tourist season according to FAA officials.

The FAA has already warned that based on staffing shortages there will be delays this summer, especially in the Northeast.

“Solving this staffing crisis requires a holistic approach to improve hiring and training, but that can only happen if Congress receives the correct information about the FAA’s staffing needs. Senator Shaheen’s bill will complete that all important first step,” the union added.

Earlier this year, Shaheen wrote FAA Acting Administrator Billy Nolen, raising the issue of workforce shortages as airports across the country faced multiple runway incursion incidents.

Shaheen and fellow N.H. Sen. Maggie Hassan called on the agency to improve communication with the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport about telecommunications interference with airport operations attributed to the rollout of the 5G cell phone system upgrade.

Shaheen played a significant role in federal grants for New Hampshire airports as a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee who, along with Hassan, acted as lead negotiators for the federal infrastructure law.