FAA changes policy surrounding hiring of air traffic controllers, bypasses college-trained students

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- - There is growing concern from air traffic controllers over the safety of air travel after the Federal Aviation Administration changed the policy on how it hires controllers.

The policy used to require those applying to be controllers to attending a college or university that has a specific program that trains students in air traffic control.

But the FAA just announced it would open hiring to anyone and released this statement:

"The FAA reviewed the end-to-end process of hiring and assigning air traffic control specialists and chose to make several improvements to the way it selects, trains, and assigns air traffic controllers in order to recruit a better qualified candidate and reduce costs associated with testing and training.  Improvements were made to enhance decision making and increase objectivity in the assessment of candidate."
The FAA used to rely on those schools to provide training before hiring controllers that would go through the FAA's program.              
Broward College trainer and former air traffic controller Sheila English said travelers should be safe for now.
“Where the impact is going to be felt is in the facilities which are not going to have the controllers on staff because those controllers are taking too long to train," said English.

When it takes too long for controllers to be trained, English said that is when shortages can occur. She said when shortages occur, that is when dangerous mistakes can happen.
“If an air traffic controller is working for a very long time and they don’t have the relief of another controller coming in to take over the position from them, it’s going to cause stress for those controllers working," said English

Just recently, two planes between California and Hawaii flew within just a few hundred feet of each other. Another near miss also occurred at Newark International Airport.
Smyser said the change in policy will not stop him from flying yet.
“God forbid the first accident that could be blamed on something like that could be a possibility," said Smyser.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association released the following statement:

"Our confidence in the Federal Aviation Administration’s first step in addressing a significant air traffic controller hiring need has unfortunately turned to deep concern. The FAA’s recent nationwide controller job announcement drew more than 28,000 candidates. However, only eight percent – approximately 2,200 – passed the initial “Biographical Questionnaire” evaluation and advanced in the hiring process. The FAA expected 30 percent to advance."

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