1. Home
  2. SQUAWK IDENT
  3. Squawk Ident

Squawk Ident

0

Is FAA staffing keeping pace with airspace/infrastructure/automation here in the US National Airspace System (NAS)? Are the major ATC centers staffed correctly for an upcoming busy summer season?


Most certainly not. FAA is – and admits to being – understaffed by at least 3000 ATC controllers.  This is a known problem, and Oklahoma City is stuck in its old-school way of selection and schooling of new candidates.

Graham Fig
ATP. Gulfstream IV & Robinson R44
Corporate Jet Captain
EJM
Great Neck NY

 

In my opinion, they have not kept pace for many years, and are way behind on staffing and service. We have controllers operating busy airspace with multiple frequencies, which means that people are stepping on each other, and often you can’t hear the other frequency and the people the controllers are talking to. Therefore, the controllers get frustrated. This is a major safety issue, and I don’t see it being fixed soon. Also, some of these new controllers are struggling to provide the proper service. Data link should have been in use many years ago.

Alan Bessonet
ATP/CFII. CRJ900
Chief Pilot
Dow Chemical
Port Allen LA

 

Idon’t think staffing levels are adequate. We experience delays regularly due to ATC’s inability to handle the traffic, especially on the AR routes.

James Lanning
ATP. Falcon 2000, Beech 400 & Citation 650
Pilot
Delaware Park
Silver Spring MD

 

They are not. Most ATC facilities are short-staffed.

David Caum
ATP/CFII. Citation Latitude & Premier I
Captain
Fly Direct
La Ponte IN

 

For many years, FAA hasn’t been properly staffed. This is evident from the regular ground stops for traffic in Florida. Automation is nowhere near where it should be in this day and age. If a Tesla can automatically receive upgraded software while sitting in a garage, it means the technology and infrastructure exist. Typical government efficiency is unable to keep pace with the leadership in place for both issues.

Eric Tallberg
ATP/CFII. Citation X
Co-Captain
Private company
Sparks NV

 

No, they’re not. However, it’s not simply an issue of numbers – it’s more a matter of quality. Experienced controllers are leaving due to toxic work environments, overwork, and quality of life issues. Instead of incentivizing the retention and promotion of veteran controllers, thereby focusing on performance and safety, FAA continues to focus on pet social projects and pretends to address real issues by proposing Band-Aids to arterial bleeding and cancer. The controllers I know care sincerely about their mission and purpose, but are overwhelmed by workload, the inability and/or lack of interest of management to fire poorly performing/unsafe controllers, fear of reprisal for addressing issues, and FAA-mandated distractions unrelated to the job. The National Airspace System is just that – a functioning system developed over a century of hard lessons and designed to do one thing, ie, manage the nation’s airspace efficiently and safely. It’s not a social science laboratory. In reality, FAA has broken its own “sterile cockpit” rule, and unless the mature and experienced voices in the room stand up for reason and the cold, hard rules of aviating, navigating, and communicating, the system will continue its “graveyard spiral” to the inevitable consequences.

Tommy Jernejcic
ATP/CFII. Pilatus PC-12
Captain
Air Pirate Aviation
Goodyear AZ

 

JAX (Intl, Jacksonville FL) Center always seems a problem with unreasonable long EDCT (Expect Departure Clearance Time). Sometimes it takes 7 hours after the scheduled departure time.

Andrew Maroney
ATP. Citation CJ3+/CJ2+/CJ2
Dir of Ops
Burgess Aircraft Mgmt
Springfield MO

 

I think more controllers are needed.

Kenneth Gonsalves
ATP. Challenger 850
Captain
Flightexec
Mississauga ON, Canada

 

Don’t believe so. We often use JAX Center and, during any major or minor holiday period, as well as at other times, such as summer vacation, we always  experience major delays. The week after Christmas is always a debacle. It’s not a matter of enough airspace. It’s lack of controllers to handle the volume of traffic. This happens elsewhere in the country too, as I’m sure others will attest. Also, the implementation of CPDLC for the general aviation sector is taking a painfully long time. MEM (Intl, Memphis TN) Center is looking to be one of the last to start using it, and I wonder why. You’d think it would be a perfect place to start using it first, considering all the night-time freight operations that occur in its airspace. I’m sure it had to do something with equipment and staffing. The ATC system, staffing, and equipment are far behind the technology that’s available today allowing for a more safe and efficient sky. Better technology may allow for reduced staffing, but since the antiquated technology is in use and staffing levels are below what’s needed, we are in crisis mode. Even the scheduled air carriers are reducing flights due to the challenges presented by these issues. I’m thinking of starting over and buying a horse and buggy. It could be more efficient.

Dwayne McMurry
ATP. Falcon 2000/900
Senior Captain
Aircraft Management Services
La Vergne TN

 

By no means. The system is outdated and understaffed to handle demand, especially in the US Northeast and Eastern corridor.

Brandon Hessdoerfer
ATP. Falcon 7X/2000 EASy/2000
Captain
Clay Lacy Aviation
Collegeville PA

 

FAA is always playing catch-up with its EU counterparts. We are behind in staffing and infrastructure, and without those 2 elements technology will never advance.

Alfredo Fagel
ATP/CFII. Challenger 605
Dir of Aviation
IMS
Murfreesboro TN

 

Staffing has not kept pace with present-day infrastructure. The 2 ATC centers that come to mind are FLL (Intl, Fort Lauderdale FL) and MIA (Intl, Miami FL).

Jay Stuve
ATP/CFII. Learjet 45
Director
City Aviation
Williamston MI

 

FAA airspace, infrastructure, and automation goals are on schedule. Witness the implementation/maturing of SWIM (System Wide Information Management), active enroute domestic CPDLC, and increasingly  full-procedure “climb via” and “descent via” clearances. These steps reduce controller workload and are efficient and predictable for spacing and arrival sequencing. Further improvements with ACAS-X implementation and FANS 2/3 for airliner applications are well under way – Boeing airliners should all be FANS 3 equipped by the end of 2024. Significant controller challenges remain from post-pandemic shortages affecting tower facilities and ARTCC centers, and the training pipeline is slow. The results will be continued enroute delays and EDCT restrictions, even on clear days, until staffing improves.

David Bjellos
ATP. Gulfstream G650
Corporate Pilot
Executive Jet Management
Lake Worth FL

 

Facilities are not adequately staffed, in my opinion.  The FAA Academy does not have enough instructors, and training controllers is a lengthy process that works against a quick response for competently-staffed ATC.

Jacques Astre
ATP/CFII. Gulfstream II & King Air 200
Aviation Safety Consultant
International Aviation
Safety Solutions
Chapel Hill NC

 

From my experience in the local flying area and HNL (Honolulu HI) Class B airspace, I haven’t seen anything that indicates this kind of issue here.

Jeffrey Protacio
Comm-Multi-Inst/Helo. MD 500D
Tour Helicopter Pilot
Magnum Helicopters
Honolulu HI

 

Probably yes, depending on the facility. I think the system has been short for years, and it got worse in 2006 when FAA imposed new work rules. Many ATC employees retired rather than work under the new rules. This forced many facilities to work 6-day weeks and 10-hour days with mandated overtime. This resulted in those who were left experiencing burnout at a faster rate. I’m told that many facilities are back to the mandated overtime. This became unacceptable when the training facility in OKC (Oklahoma City OK) was shut down due to Covid-19. For years, there was no one coming in the door while those working still faced mandatory retirement due to age. Yes, there were some waivers to the requirement, but that was just a Band-Aid. I think a short-term solution that could be looked at is rehiring some of the retirees part-time to fill in until more folks come in the door. This issue is similar to the pilot shortage. It takes years to train an air traffic controller, just like it takes years to train a pilot.

Jim Mignogna
Comm-Multi-Inst. King Air 350/300
Contract Pilot
RF Wings
Cicero NY

 

Definitely not. It appears that flow programs  have no rhyme or reason with respect to weather or staffing. I recently suffered through a 1 hr 32 min delay for a 1 hr 30 min flight. When we were finally airborne, all frequencies were unusually quiet.

Russell Appleton
ATP/Helo. Falcon 900/50
Dir of Ops
AirStat
Manning SC

 

I fly in California, and I must say NorCal Approach is really good and professional. FAT (Fresno Yosemite CA) Approach and BFL (Bakersfield CA) Approach controls are also very professional. The Sacramento area has great controllers as well, and they all seem to be well manned. My only issue is SNS (Salinas CA) Tower, which is non-federal and has limited Friday hours.

John Scherer
ATP/CFII. Beech Bonanza 35
Pilot
Twinco Aviation
Monterey CA

 

FAA certification offices are not keeping up with various industry projects. It’s becoming common for delays to exceed 6 months waiting for response to certification plan/programs. Responses from various offices are becoming inconsistent.

Ralph Rissmiller
ATP/CFII. Learjet 45
Flight Test Pilot
RR Aviation Services
Wichita KS

 

While FAA is doing the best it can to keep up with the needs of the NAS, the demands, technology, and unmanned aircraft systems are outpacing FAA. The agency needs to be more agile  and quicker with advancing technology to keep pace. It also needs to stay ahead of cybersecurity threats.

Rob Balzano
ATP/CFI. Gulfstream G100 & Boeing 737
CEO
Citation Jet Pilots
Riva MD

 

While it might appear from the outside that they are trying to staff as best they can, they often still fall on their faces.  We constantly get reroutes and takeoff delays for separation when heading home to the Northeast corridor. In addition, lots of military airspace activity is clogging up the works. Tower operators are doing all the jobs, ie, clearance, delivery, ground, and tower. Tower operators are doing all the jobs, i.e. clearance, delivery, ground, and tower.

Christopher Phillips
ATP. Citation Excel
Pilot
Shoreline Aviation
Yarmouth MA

 

No, they’re not keeping pace. And in my opinion, aeromedical services are even more in need of help.

Joe O’Donnell
ATP/CFII. King Air 350i
Pilot
PA DOT
Mechanicsburg PA

 

In some respects yes, and in others no. In the past decade, there has been no apparent advance in routing technology during severe weather events. Regardless of what IFR route is filed, the Center computers will always just assign the preferred route without regard to safety. This leaves the crew to negotiate constantly with ATC in real time while airborne. Too much is being left to chance. Considering the technology that’s available in 2024, I can’t believe that there isn’t a better alternative.

Christopher Weedon
ATP. Global 5000, Falcon 2000EX/2000EX EASy/2000 & Hawker 900XP/800XP
Dir of Ops
Corporate Eagle Management
Services
Waterford MI

 

No, and it’s mostly at the tower/ground/metering level. Too often you have one controller doing everything at an international airport. This can easily lead to confusion, and we’ve been seeing an uptick of this with runway incursions and landing clearances with aircraft on the runway.

Jason Meister
ATP. CRJ series
Captain
SkyWest Airlines
Minneapolis MN

 

I don’t believe so. Private aircraft are held for hours for flights to Florida, or are forced to fly below FL180, burning significantly more fuel and adding fuel stops, not to mention the carbon being generated.  You can also hear the fatigue in some controllers’ voices. That being said, the controllers are always professional and, once you are in the system, they try to work with you as far as routing shortcuts, vectors around weather, and such. I fly around the world twice a year, and I’d never realized how good the system here is, or how good the controllers here are, until I experienced other systems.

David Kaplan
ATP. Boeing 777 & King Air 350
First Officer
Atlas Air
Sioux City IA

 

Most centers seem to be understaffed, causing flow delays. Traffic does not seem to be as great as before Covid-19. However, delays are worse.

Mark Schuppener
ATP/CFII/A&P. Challenger 601/350/300
Aviation Mgr
ONB
Winston GA

 

It doesn’t seem like staffing is where it needs to be. We have noticed an increase in staffing triggers for JAX this year. Unfortunately, the problem is not just limited to obvious holidays any more. The controllers who are on during these times are definitely working hard and managing multiple frequencies – maybe more than they are used to. Hopefully they can attract and train talent to fill these voids. Perhaps there is a pay deficit as well. Air travel is big business and it cannot be done without the men and women who coordinate flow. The situation is alarming, and needs fixing ASAP.

Brian Mitchell
ATP. Gulfstream G450 & Hawker 900XP/800XP
Chief Pilot
Sky Quest
Akron OH

 

Based on my experience, I must say no. The airspace is getting busier by the day, and FAA’s antiquated technology and staffing are unable to keep up with the modern day ATC system. We see it on a daily basis, as we did recently observing how ATC coped with the weather system in northern Florida.

Curtis Fink
ATP. Boeing 737-700/800/MAX 8
Captain
Southwest Airlines
Lewisville TX

 

Absolutely not, plus they seem to be hell-bent on hiring only people based on DEI (diversity, equality, and inclusion) requirements and not on skills or experience.

Joe Abrahamson
ATP. Global 5500 & Challenger 350
Chief Pilot
Leucadia Air
Phoeniz AZ

 

Here in southern California, towers at major airports are understaffed. It does not seem to be their fault, as they are attempting to increase staff. Nevertheless, they do a great job. SoCal TRACON (Terminal Radar Approach Control) is also doing an exceptional job.

Gary Schank
ATP/CFII. Embraer ERJ135/145
Captain
JSX
Mission Viejo CA

 

Recently, I visited the staff at my local Class C airport. They said they were fully staffed. However, many towers are short by as many as 30% of positions. In Florida, it seems there is more stress radiating from the controllers, although I believe they do a great job.

Paul Schubert
Comm-Multi-Inst. Piper Malibu, TBM 700 & Aviat Husky
CEO
CarePICS
Raleigh NC