H.R. 636 Will Help Fix ATC Staffing, I Hope

By Robert Mark on July 8th, 2016

I’d like to interrupt your afternoon for just a minute before you head out the door for the weekend. Congress is expected to vote next week on another FAA funding extension – H.R. 636 – and the industry’s hoping it’s all thumbs up … but not just because a majority vote will keep the agency’s lights on until October 2017. Passage of H.R. 636 will also help the FAA fix a staffing crisis it created all by itself a few years ago, even though the agency hiring system in place at the time worked just fine. A quick review of the problem.

NATCAThe National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) last week detailed how passage might affect the hiring crisis the FAA created in December 2013.

“The number of fully certified controllers working today is at a 27-year low, a crisis made worse by FAA’s inability to meet its own hiring goals in each of the last seven years. NATCA believes FAA must take a holistic, collaborative approach to resolving these staffing concerns. If passed, the extension as drafted would streamline the hiring process by allowing experienced controllers to be hired quickly; military veterans and graduates of schools in FAA’s Collegiate Training Initiative (CTI) would also be hired more expeditiously. CTI graduates and veterans would be considered in a separate pool from the general public. The extension would also increase the maximum entry age for a controller with 52 weeks experience to 35 years of age, another provision we applaud. Similar language sponsored by Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Sean Patrick Maloney in H.R. 5292 has received strong bipartisan support, with 237 co-sponsors.”19150871644_5ebf5b5fa4_z

Of course there are other significant industry reasons Congress needs to pass the FAA extension as the NBAA‘s president Ed Bolen added.

“This extension is also important because of what it includes, and what it leaves out. For example, we are pleased that the bill reflects some key general aviation priorities, such as the inclusion of third-class medical reform for pilots of small aircraft, and provisions focused on the safe integration of unmanned aircraft systems into the airspace. Equally important, the bill does not include risky proposals for creating a privatized air traffic control system, funded through new user fees. Clearly, our community’s tremendous mobilization against ATC privatization funded by user fees has made a difference.”

That means it’s time to hit the NBAA’s Congress list and tell your Representatives to say “Yes” to H.R. 636 and say “No,” by the way to H.R. 4441, the proposal to privatize ATC and pay for it with user fees. It took just two minutes of my time to send a letter. BTW, the letter’s function offers you a chance to customize the content, so be sure and add this sentence … “Passing H.R. 636 will also help fix the ATC staffing crisis the FAA created by changing its hiring standards in December 2013.”

You’re now free to return to goofing off the rest of the weekend. Thanks.

Rob Mark, Publisher

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