Fla. air traffic controllers not getting adequate training


Published: Tuesday, January 29, 2008 at 8:42 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 29, 2008 at 8:42 a.m.

MIAMI - Six out of 10 new air traffic controllers at a major radar complex in South Florida do not receive adequate training, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association said.

The association asked the Government Accountability Office on Monday to audit the Federal Aviation Administration's training program, saying an unprecedented 14 student controllers have resigned from Miami Center since July 2007.

Miami Center oversees about 6,800 flights a day many of those planes land at the Miami, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood and Palm Beach international airports.

The group also says the FAA isn't training remaining students fast enough, leaving many waiting months before they enter a classroom, said Steve Wallace, president of the association's Miami Center branch.

"We have a diminishing number of people," he said. "Now it's not just experienced controllers who are leaving, it's developmental controllers who are leaving as well."

But an FAA spokeswoman says there have been no "operational errors," where planes fly too close together, at Miami Center as a result of training problems.

Controllers at the center are well trained and the facility is operating with more than a full staff, FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said.

There are currently 285 controllers the center is designed to operate with between 220 and 255 controllers. Of those 285, 195 are experienced controllers, while 90 are trainees, she said.

"No controller can be checked out until they've completed the rigorous training program we have in place," she said.

Bergen said training large groups of controllers could be problematic in the future, as thousands are approaching the mandatory retirement age of 56 or opting to retire early.

The FAA plans to hire about 16,000 controllers over the next decade, she said. Most will already have considerable training from a university or the military, she said.

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