US training gap puts NextGen in peril: OIG

The rollout of the US NextGen modernisation effort will put the already stretched training resources of the FAA under even greater pressure, according to the US Transportation Department office of inspector general.
In a report dated January 12, inspectors noted that the the agency started a hiring wave in fiscal 2005 to prepare for controllers hired after the 1981 controller strike reaching retirement age.
The report states that in 21 air traffic control facilities auditors considered to be critical to aviation safety due to the volume and complexity of air traffic, more than half equal or exceed the 25 per cent national average of certified professional controllers eligible to retire.
And yet attrition of new controller trainees at more than two thirds of those facilities exceed the national rate of 24 per cent, according to the report.
At the New York terminal radar approach control, three out of every four new controllers between 2008 and 2010 failed to qualify as certified professional controllers.
The report criticises the training slot methodology used by the Air Traffic Control Optimum Training Solution (ACOTS) programme office, managed since 2008 by Raytheon under a $437m-plus contract
In the report, the OIG auditors said that as result of the training resource allocation tool launched in February 2011, the Dallas TRACON saw its training capacity go down from two shifts a day when contract instructor cover was reduced by 20 per cent.
“The US has one of the safest air traffic systems in the world but the continued safety of the NAS relies on having a fully staffed, well trained air traffic controller workforce. However the Nation’s most critical air traffic facilities are facing significant staffing shortages of fully certified controllers which could lead to potential risks to their daily operations,” said the report.
DOT OIG Report on FAA ATC Staffing and Training at Critical Facilities