Air traffic controllers union warns of delays amid controller shortage

Too few controllers could delay flights

DENVER - The nation’s air traffic control system is losing controllers faster than it can hire people, according to the Air Traffic Controllers union.

“If we don't have enough controllers to open all the positions and we have to combine up positions we have to reduce the capacity,” said Paul Rinaldi, the union’s president.

He says the effects of not enough controllers have affected flights in the past.

"We have seen some situations last summer where we didn't have enough controllers at the facility where airlines did cancel flights," he said. "Right now we're at a 30-year low of certified controllers in a system."

In 2017, 1,848 controllers left the job due to retirements, promotions or other reasons, according to the FAA’s Controller staffing report released this year.

The FAA hired 1,880 people to be new controllers last year. That’s a gain of 32 controllers. But of the number hired, the FAA lost 735 people who did not pass the required training academy.

Only 1,145 passed, far fewer than the number of controllers who left the job last year.

"We'll keep trying to keep up with attrition and we haven't been able to do that," Rinaldi said.

He says if the problem isn’t addressed differently than it currently is, we can expect to be inconvenienced in the future when we fly.

"You will have some delays on the ground maybe even holding in the air depending on what the staffing looks at looks like at that facility," Rinaldi said.

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