Sullivan Works to Include Air Traffic Controllers Hiring Reform in NDAA

WASHINGTON, DC – Yesterday, the U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly to pass the conference report to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which now heads to the President’s desk for his signature. Among the many provisions included in the final legislation was the Air Traffic Controllers Hiring Reform Act, a bill cosponsored by Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), which will reform the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) current hiring process for air traffic controllers (ATC) by giving added preference to graduates of the Certified Collegiate Training Initiative (CTI) programs and veterans. 

“Representing the state with more pilots per capita and more communities reachable principally by air than any other, I appreciate the critical nature of our air traffic controllers and the need to ensure the FAA has the necessary tools to staff the control room with highly-qualified individuals,” said Senator Sullivan. “I’m glad to see this ATC hiring reform included in the final NDAA package, which will address some of the unintended consequences of previous FAA hiring processes that limited the agency’s ability to fill the ranks with the most qualified candidates.”


To better train the necessary aviation workforce, the FAA created CTI partnerships with educational institutions, like the University of Alaska-Anchorage Aviation Technology Division, to prepare qualified candidates for ATC positions. Graduates of the CTI program are eligible to bypass the Air Traffic Basics Course, which is the first five weeks of qualification training at the FAA Academy in Oklahoma. Students must successfully complete all required training at the FAA Academy to continue employment with the FAA.

However, under current law, the FAA is required to hire an approximately equal number of air traffic controllers from two pools of candidates. The first pool includes individuals who have graduated from a CTI program, along with eligible veterans. The second pool consists of individuals applying under vacancy announcements, or “off-the-street” hires. The difference in the number of hires between these two pools can be no larger than 10 percent. 

This limitation restricts the overall number of individuals hired to be air traffic controllers, as the lowest number of applicants by pool inherently limits the overall number of individuals that can be hired.

The ATC Hiring Reform Act, which was included into the FY 2020 NDAA, will help ensure that the most qualified individuals are entering the air traffic control workforce. 

The bill would do this by giving hiring preference to graduates of CTI schools and veterans, and removing the 10 percent limitation between hiring pools. In addition, the bill includes reporting requirements on new hire performance and attrition rates.

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