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Air traffic control : FAA enhanced the controller-in-charge program, but more comprehensive evaluation is needed
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    NTL-AVIATION-AVIATION ; NTL-AVIATION-Air Traffic Control ; NTL-AVIATION-Aviation Safety/Airworthiness ;
  • Abstract:
    In negotiating its 1998 collective bargaining agreement with its controllers' union (the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, or NATCA), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) agreed to a national plan that would reduce by attrition the number of supervisors that oversee air traffic controllers, ultimately bringing the controller-to-supervisor ratio from 7-to-1 to 10-to-1. To do so without compromising safety, FAA will increasingly have its controllers performing supervisory duties as Controllers-in-Charge (CIC) when supervisors are not present. While some FAA facilities have been using CICs for over 40 years, FAA recently expanded the duties and responsibilities of CICs and made them accountable for the performance and safe operation of the facility while they are in charge. Because of concerns about FAA's plans to make greater use of CICs, the General Accounting Office (GAO) was asked to review FAA's implementation of the expanded CIC program. Specifically, this report answers four questions: (1) how is FAA implementing the national plan for supervisory reductions and what is the resulting number of CICs it has selected to provide watch supervision?; (2) how adequate is the training FAA provided controllers for their new duties and responsibilities?; (3) how adequate are FAA's quality assurance procedures for measuring any safety-related effects of the CIC expansion?; and (4) what is the status of FAA's progress toward meeting its estimates of savings and productivity gains from the CIC expansion? Briefly, FAA is implementing its national plan to reduce the number of supervisors for air traffic control through its regional offices, which are doing so by considering the supervisory staffing needs of each of their facilities or by applying the 10-to-1 ratio across the board. Nationwide, FAA has selected 8,268 controllers to serve as CICs, which is about 55% of its air traffic controller workforce. The materials for FAA's CIC training program were thorough and comprehensive, but FAA has little assurance that the training was effectively presented nationwide and achieved its objectives. FAA has not consistently implemented its quality assurance procedures for the CIC expansion. FAA's reduction of supervisors will save the agency $141.5 million, or about $23.1 million less than it estimated. FAA has not measured productivity gains from the CIC expansion.
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