U.S. to Study Staffing at Air-Traffic Control Facilities

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s inspector general will study how the Federal Aviation Administration is staffing air-traffic facilities, some of which deploy more controllers than required by agency guidelines.

The number of U.S. controllers has increased slightly as flight operations have declined 23 percent since 2000, “raising questions about the efficiency of the FAA’s current workforce,” Jeffrey Guzzetti, an assistant inspector general, said in a memorandum distributed by e-mail.

The inspector general’s office, which oversees the FAA, said it was responding to a request from Republican Representatives John Mica of Florida and Thomas Petri of Wisconsin to assess the estimated cost savings from improved controller productivity.

The audit will begin next month, Guzzetti said.

Mica and Petri are the outgoing chairmen of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and its subcommittee on aviation, respectively.

“As many as two-thirds of the FAA’s air traffic control facilities are currently over-staffed,” Mica and Petri said in a letter to the inspector general’s office.

More than 100 U.S. airport towers and radar rooms have so few flights that they should be shut down late at night under the FAA’s guidelines, a move that would save taxpayers $10 million a year, according to a Bloomberg News report Nov. 14.

Air traffic has fallen by 50 percent or more since 2000 at 47 airports with FAA-staffed towers, including former airline hubs in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and St. Louis. Facilities at all three of those airports have more controllers than required, according to an FAA report cited by Bloomberg.

The FAA documents were obtained through Freedom of Information Act filings.

The inspector general’s office said the lawmakers sent their request for an audit on Nov. 30.

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