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NATCA President Rich Santa Will Represent Our Union at FAA Safety Summit

On Wednesday, March 15, NATCA President Rich Santa will represent NATCA at the FAA Safety Summit that the Agency is organizing at the MITRE Corporation’s offices in McLean, Va. The Safety Summit will bring together leaders from commercial and general aviation groups, labor organizations, and others within the aviation industry.

Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen called for the summit in a Feb. 14 memorandum. This call to action came amidst a string of runway incidents that attracted national attention. Nolen acknowledged that although aviation is experiencing its safest period in history, the FAA and its partners cannot become complacent. In the memo, Nolen stated, “I want to hear from the participants about what they are seeing in their own operations and more importantly, I want specific ideas about how to enhance our already robust safety net with concrete actions.”

About the summit, Santa stated, “FAA hiring has not kept up with air traffic controller attrition despite the agency meeting its self-imposed hiring goals since 2016. Consequently, as of the end of Fiscal Year 2022, there were 1,200 fewer Certified Professional Controllers (CPCs) employed by the FAA than a decade earlier. When there are too few certified controllers, positions must be combined, sometimes resulting in increased workload. Most commonly, this can be mitigated through reduced efficiency. However, chronically understaffing facilities introduces unnecessary risk into the system.”

Santa added, “The FAA is upwardly adjusting its hiring goal for each of the next three years to 1,800 new trainees each year. However, according to the 2022-2031 Controller Workforce Plan, only 60% of all controller trainees reach full certification within three years, the other 40% resign, are removed, or are still in training, so this increased hiring goal will take several years to have a positive effect on CPC totals.”

Santa concluded, “The FAA must have stable and sufficient funding in order to hire and fully train each of the 1,800 annual new hires at the FAA Academy and then provide classroom, simulator, and on-the-job training once they reach their air traffic facilities.”

During the summit Santa will participate in a plenary panel that will be moderated by Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen and Robert Sumwalt, the Executive Director of the Center for Aviation and Aerospace at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Other panelists will include Air Line Pilots Association, International, President Capt. Jason Ambrosi; Airlines for America President and CEO Nick Calio; American Association of Airport Executives President and CEO Todd Hauptli; National Business Aviation Association President and CEO Ed Bolen; and Regional Airline Association President and CEO Faye Malarkey Black.

In addition, NATCA’s National Safety Committee Chair and National Safety Representative John Murdock (Philadelphia ATCT) will participate on a panel about ground movement.

Watch the livestream starting at 10:30 AM ET on Wednesday, March 15.

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