Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Air traffic control hiring freeze.... again.

I recieved this in an e-mailand thought I would share.

December 19th, 2006FAA considers air traffic controller hiring freezeBy NICOLE GAUDIANODecember 19, 2006WASHINGTON — The Federal Aviation Administration may freeze all hiring ofair traffic controllers and technicians after March 31 despite understaffingin some facilities and an oncoming wave of retirements.The agency is considering the cost-saving strategy in response to Democraticleaders’ proposal to extend fiscal 2006 funding levels through this fiscalyear, according to a Dec. 14 FAA memo.“In anticipation of the impact that could have on our finances, we must takefurther steps to reduce spending while still maintaining effective servicesto our customers,” states the memo from Eugene Juba, the FAA Air TrafficOrganization’s senior vice president of finance, to the ATO executivecouncil.Air traffic controllers say they are already stretched too thin and reducingthe number of controllers in the pipeline would make it worse.About 70 percent of the FAA’s air traffic controllers will become eligibleto retire through 2015, and controllers are retiring faster than the agencyexpected.“They need to be ramping up hiring, not shutting it off halfway through afiscal year,” Douglas Church, a spokesman for the National Air TrafficControllers Association, said Monday.Democratic lawmakers have blamed Republican leaders for failing to completethe appropriations process for the current year.Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., who expects to chair the aviationsubcommittee of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee,said in a statement Monday that it is critical that the FAA have theresources to hire additional personnel.“The FAA, and our nation’s air safety, cannot fall victim to the Republicans’ inability to pass vital appropriation bills,” he wrote. “When Congressreconvenes in January, this must be one of our top priorities.”Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., who will chair the House Transportation andInfrastructure Committee, said in a statement that his committee willrecommend adjustments to prevent cutbacks that aren’t in the publicinterest.While a hiring freeze for controllers and technicians is an option, nodecisions have been made, primarily because last year’s funding levels haveonly been extended through Feb. 15, FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said.“We obviously have to take a look at what our spending levels are and thenwhat kinds of decisions we need to make,” she said.Meanwhile, Juba also told the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization executivecouncil to:• Freeze hiring, effective Dec. 14, for all employees other than controllersand technicians who install and maintain air traffic control equipment.• Reduce spending where possible for information technology such ascomputers, second-level support such as maintenance contracts, developingnew flight procedures and Occupational Safety and Health Administrationcapital projects such as installing defibrillators.• Halt all international travel and travel not directly related to runningthe air traffic control system, though waivers may be granted.• Reduce in size and scope all administrative contracts where possible.The FAA planned to hire 1,136 controllers in the fiscal year ending Sept.30, 2007, but the agency is now trying to determine whether it will be ableto meet that number.“I don’t know what the math is going to show us when we look at it, but I’dsay we’re concerned about the potential impact,” Brown said.Brown could not say how many controllers have been hired already this fiscalyear. She could not say how much money the FAA would need to continue withits hiring plan.The ATO decided to reduce spending now to save for later, she said.“Nothing is ever written in stone and if there are emergencies or any safetycritical issues that came up, we’d address them on a case-by-case basis,”Brown said. “Everybody is looking at what they need to do to reduceexpenses.”Nicole Gaudiano writes for Gannett News Service.Email this story to a friend