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FTD: CRWG Staffing Model vs. FAA Finance Staffing Model

Brothers and Sisters, 

In the last edition of From the Desk articles, I shared an update regarding the status of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill in Congress and NATCA’s efforts to ensure our Union’s legislative priorities are included in the final version of the five-year bill.

The article touched upon what these priorities are – maximum hiring of air traffic controller candidates from 2024-2028, and the adoption of the Collaborative Resource Workgroup (CRWG) staffing model as the basis for FAA’s Controller Workforce Plan (CWP).

I would like to take this opportunity to expand upon why the adoption of the CRWG staffing model by the FAA is such a critical part of resolving the staffing shortages. As we know, Certified Professional Controllers (CPCs) shoulder the burden of chronically understaffed facilities, while training the future of our profession. Controllers at the most critically understaffed facilities are required to work mandatory overtime including six-day workweeks and 10-hour days to maintain current system capacity.

How did we get to this point? It all comes down to a difference in how FAA Finance and Management (AFN) believes staffing targets for the CWP should be determined. The FAA has embraced a finance-driven staffing model for more than a decade. This staffing model, along with inconsistent hiring practices, have led to 1,000 fewer CPCs than 10 years ago.

The AFN staffing model bases its targets on historical data collected from time on position. The AFN model perpetuates the current staffing crisis by basing staffing targets on the review of historical position coverage and calculating that what was used is all that is necessary in the future, which further undermines the decline in controller staffing. AFN relies exclusively on this flawed data collection and ignores the reality of operating a safe and efficient air traffic operation.

In contrast, the CRWG staffing model is based on data that was collected by NATCA and the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization through a survey of air traffic experts at every air traffic facility on position coverage needs for a typical busy day. It relies on both historical hours recorded in official FAA timekeeping systems of record and specific controller requirements, using actual leave accruals, FAA Orders, and contractual obligations to calculate an Availability Factor that reflects all of the time that must be accounted for including other duties in the expected/desired operating environment. The final product was then verified and validated by the MITRE Corporation, which is an independent third party hired by the FAA.

When compared side-by-side, one thing is clear – the CRWG staffing targets represent the most effective approach to addressing the air traffic controller staffing shortage. This is why NATCA will continue to call on members of Congress to include the language that requires the FAA to adopt the CRWG staffing targets in the final five-year FAA reauthorization bill.

In Solidarity, 

Rich Santa 
NATCA President 

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