OPINION | LETTERS
June 21, 2018
Air-Traffic Controllers Are Vetted and Competent
Claims that controllers are putting public safety at risk unfairly malign the reputations of these great professionals.
In “The Airport Control Tower Is No Place for Racial Redress” (Upward Mobility, June 6), Jason Riley wrongly suggests the FAA’s air-traffic controller hiring process prioritizes racial diversity over aviation safety. This is not true. Controllers are among the most vetted, skilled and trained professionals in the nation. We do an amazing job safely managing the world’s busiest, most-complex airspace.
After the FAA initially implemented its biographical assessment, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), the union that represents FAA controllers, worked with the agency to validate a second version of that screen on the incumbent workforce. With our help, it now gauges common personality traits that applicants share with current controllers. Once applicants pass the assessment, they must pass a separate cognitive aptitude test that measures their ability to perform the role of a controller, followed by extensive medical screening and a security investigation. They then must complete four months of training at the FAA Academy. Historically, only about half successfully pass their academy training. Finally, Academy graduates must complete up to three years of classroom, simulator and on-the-job training at an air-traffic control facility to become fully certified. Only about 80% of trainees complete facility training.
Additionally, NATCA worked with Congress to pass bipartisan legislation that exempts applicants from taking the assessment if they have prior controller experience, graduated from a Collegiate Training Initiative school or are military veterans.
Staffing has reached a 29-year low of fully certified controllers, making it a critical issue for Natca with the administration and Congress. Claims that controllers are putting public safety at risk unfairly malign the reputations of these great professionals.
National Air Traffic Controllers Association
KTSM-TV EL PASO: “One week after an American Airlines flight was forced to make an emergency landing in El Paso, an air traffic control specialist responsible for helping land the plane, talked with KTSM about the hectic experience.
“Crystal Lingle told KTSM, ‘I could not have fathomed the damage on that aircraft. All I saw was the pictures the media had and that just blew my mind that they landed that airplane. The nosecone was basically gone.’
“As KTSM previously reported, flight 1897 was on its way to Phoenix from San Antonio when it suffered hail damage and had to make an emergency landing in El Paso.
“When asked how she feels knowing she helped save the 135 people on board, Lingle said, ‘I don't see it like that and I've been called a hero over the last week and a half and it blows my mind because honestly, I was just doing my job. I think the real heroes in this situation are the two pilots flying that airplane because it's a miracle that they put that plane on the pavement and 135 people walked away that day.’
Following our 'Ask the Captain' and 'Ask a Flight Attendant' episodes, we wanted to pose your questions to an active air traffic controller. So in this episode, San Juan Tower controller Kyrandgel Rio...
A video produced by FAA Communications in collaboration with NATCA.
NATCA Great Lakes Archie League Medal of Safety Award. Aired on April 25, 2017.