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Detroit Radar Control Facility's Staffing at 16-Year Low With 14 More Eligible to Retire over Next 12 Months - (4/22/2008)

CONTACTS: Detroit Metro TRACON Facility Representative Jeff Blow, (734) 925-1494; NATCA National Office, Alexandra Caldwell, (202) 220-9813, acaldwell@natcadc.org

DETROIT – There are only 38 Certified Professional Controllers (CPCs) on staff at Detroit Metro TRACON (Terminal Radar Approach Control), down from the 45 CPCs the facility had prior to the FAA’s implementation of imposed work rules in September 2006. Eight veteran controllers have retired since then, only one of those retirements being mandatory.

Now at the lowest staffing level in at least 16 years, 14 CPCs are eligible to retire over the next 12 months with two more following that. Eight of those are eligible to retire right now and two have already announced their intentions to retire this summer. If all that are eligible to retire do so, two years from now the facility could be operating with only 22 controllers.

“Unless something is done to reverse this trend, we will not be able to operate Detroit Metro Airport at its current capacity,” said Detroit Metro TRACON Facility Representative Jeff Blow. To compensate for the facility’s short-staffing the controllers will have to work anywhere from 15 to 22 overtime shifts each week this summer.

“Considering that it takes two years to train an experienced controller to work at Detroit TRACON, there’s no one even in the pipeline to replace our retiring controllers,” said Blow. Two of the facility’s seven trainees expected to replace those that have retired have already failed the training program and will have to be transferred – another two have not been certified on any positions as of yet.

The FAA is due to install new equipment at the facility called a Precision Radar Monitor (PRM) and though it is expected to increase the capacity to Detroit Metro Airport by 33 percent this installation will require at least one more controller on staff to work this position. “Once again the FAA is concentrating more on technology and less on its workforce. This “next generation” technology will just sit in the corner and gather dust unless we get some more controllers here to operate it,” Blow said.

The FAA also plans to bring in 11 CPCs from other facilities, including one VRA over the next year – a hiring and training schedule that can’t keep up with attrition, much less begin to address the existing shortage of veteran controllers.

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