Insider Green

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
OPINION | LETTERS 
June 21, 2018 

Headline: 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.

Paul Rinaldi
President
National Air Traffic Controllers Association
Washington