Statement of Task

An ad hoc committee will conduct a study of the assumptions and methods used by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to estimate staffing needs for FAA systems specialists to ensure proper maintenance and certification of the national airspace system. The committee will review available information on (A) the duties of employees in job series 2101 (Airways Transportation Systems Specialist) in the Technical Operations service unit; (B) the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (PASS) union of the AFL-CIO; (C) the present-day staffing models employed by the FAA; (D) any materials already produced by the FAA including a recent gap analysis on staffing requirements; (E) current research on best staffing models for safety; and (F) non-U.S. staffing standards for employees in similar roles. Additionally, the FAA will assist in the committee’s efforts by identifying relevant stakeholder organizations and agencies and facilitating communication with them. Based on its analysis of the available information, the committee will produce a report that will include

•  a description and evaluation of current FAA staffing models and standards for systems specialists;

•  recommendations for objective staffing standards that will maintain the safety of the National Airspace System going forward; and

•  recommendations for the steps needed to transition from the current staffing models and approaches used by the FAA to the plans for staffing recommended by the committee.

At each facility, the ATSS personnel execute both tasks that are scheduled and predictable (e.g., performing regular preventive maintenance, conducting scheduled certification of equipment and facilities of the NAS, upgrading equipment, standing watch3) and tasks that are stochastic4 and unpredictable in occurrence (e.g., detecting an adverse event or outage and then repairing and returning certified equipment to use after the event). These tasks are common across the five ATSS disciplines: (1) Communications, maintaining the systems that allow air traffic controllers and pilots to be in contact throughout the flight; (2) Surveillance and Radar, maintaining the systems that allow air traffic controllers to see the specific locations of all the aircraft in the airspace they are monitoring; (3) Automation, maintaining the systems that allow air traffic controllers to track each aircraft’s current and future position, speed, and altitude; (4) Navigation, maintaining the systems that allow pilots to take off, maintain their course, approach, and land their aircraft; and (5) Environmental, maintaining the power, lighting, and heating/ air conditioning systems at the ATC facilities (FAA, 2011b). Because the NAS needs to be available and reliable all the time, each of the different equipment systems includes redundancy so an outage can be fixed without disrupting the NAS.

The 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act mandated the National Research Council to appoint an ad hoc committee to study the assumptions and methods the FAA uses to estimate the number of ATSS personnel needed. This committee was appointed with the statement of task shown in Box S-1.

Rather than establish a standard for staffing models (a staffing model can be used to estimate the number of ATSS employees needed to fulfill the FAA’s mission), the committee decided to identify relevant factors and considerations necessary to create a model that will yield a staffing number by a reasoned, scientifically sound approach. To accomplish its tasks, the committee received briefings and


3“Standing watch” refers to monitoring for adverse events and unscheduled outages of the equipment.

4Randomly determined; having a random probability distribution or pattern that may be analyzed statistically but may not be predicted.

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