Yesterday, Senator Mike Braun introduced the bipartisanAir Traffic Controllers Hiring Act of 2023, aimed to require the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to conduct maximum hiring of air traffic controllers (ATC) at the FAA Academy. The maximum hiring of ATCs is equivalent to approximately 1,800 individuals at the Academy per year. Additionally, the bill text clarifies that max hiring is subject to the availability of appropriations and does not authorize specific funding levels.

Senator Braun is joined in the introduction of the bill by Senators Marshall (R-KS), Luján (D-NM), Shaheen (D-NH), Klobuchar (D-MN), and Boozman (R-AR).       

“Air traffic controllers work around the clock to ensure that America’s aircrafts are taking off and landing safely and on time. At a time when air traffic controller workforce is below national standards, Congress needs to do its part to help alleviate employment shortages and make sure United States aviation operations are living up to America’s gold standard for air travel.” — Senator Braun   

“Our air traffic controllers keep our skies safe for all, and it’s imperative that their workforce requirements are understood. Without them, we would not be equipped to maintain the ever-growing air travel in Kansas and across America. I’m proud to support this legislation that will provide Congress and the FAA a clear picture of our air traffic controllers’ needs, and better prepare us for the future.” — Senator Marshall

“Air travel helps connect our communities and boost local economies – none of which could be done without air traffic controllers working to ensure safe and reliable transportation. Air traffic controllers are vital to the flow of air travel, and with work shortages come significant impacts on travel. The Air Traffic Controllers Hiring Act will help increase the workforce and support our state’s airports to operate at their fullest potential.” — Senator Luján

“The FAA must elevate its hiring practices to alleviate the shortfall of air traffic controllers. This legislation will strengthen the pipeline of FAA’s workforce and support the vibrant airline industry so passengers can reliably reach their destinations in a timely manner.” — Senator Boozman

“Air traffic controller staffing has been strained for years, leading to travel disruptions for millions of Americans. It’s about time we addressed the challenges leading to these issues. This bill would enable the FAA to hire more staff so we can ensure there’s a strong pipeline of qualified air traffic controllers and help keep the flying public safely.” — Senator Shaheen

“Our nation is facing a shortage of air traffic controllers causing flight delays and disruptions across the country. The Air Traffic Controllers Hiring Act will help address these shortages and improve the safety of our airways.” — Senator Klobuchar

“This bipartisan bill, which also was included in the version of FAA reauthorization which has passed through the U.S. House of Representatives, would put us on path to fixing staffing shortages so that we can continue to operate the safest, most efficient aviation system in the world,” — NATCA President Rich Santa.

Full bill text can be read here.

STAKEHOLDER ENDORESMENTS

Ten groups have endorsed the Air Traffic Controllers Hiring Act of 2023, including: theNational Air Traffic Controllers Association, Association of Flight Attendants, Transportation Workers Union, Air Line Pilots Association, Airlines for America, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, International Association of Machinists, the National Business Aviation Association, the National Safety Council, and U.S. Travel Association.

BACKGROUND

The House version of the FAA Reauthorization (H.R. 3935the Securing Growth and Robust Leadership in American Aviation Act) that passed the House on July 20, 2023, by a margin of 351-69, included substantively similar language to the attached bill text to require the FAA to conduct maximum hiring at the FAA Academy.

An FAA working group recently found that the FAA must maintain more than 14,000 controllers to meet demand compared to the threshold of 12,000 that the FAA is targeting under its current model and the approximately 10,600 controllers that are currently employed.

On June 21, 2023, the Department of Transportation (DOT) Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report that found the FAA “has made limited efforts to ensure adequate controller staffing” and determined that 20 of 26 (77 percent) critical ATC facilities are staffed below the FAA’s 85 percent threshold.