Evaluation of Staffing Standards

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) describes staffing standards as mathematically derived assessments of required staffing that relate controller workload and air traffic activity on the basis of “staffing to traffic.” This chapter describes how the standards are generated. FAA’s staffing standards are not the sole determinant of staffing levels; they are one of several inputs into staffing ranges and FAA’s hiring plan.

The chapter reviews the formal staffing models and the process underlying the staffing standards. It examines the process by which the standard is estimated for each facility. The two uses of the standards—as input for the staffing range and for determination of the staffing target for the hiring plan—are described. The chapter ends with a discussion of how the standards (and resulting staffing ranges) are communicated to the field, how feedback from the field is provided to headquarters for the central generation of staffing standards, and how the standards and their implementation may be improved by the coordination of scheduling at facilities with central planning.


The staffing process up to the generation of the staffing standards is summarized in Figure 3-1. The standards are inputs to the staffing range published in the controller work plan and the hiring plan. The following subsections describe each of the processes in the order shown in Figure 3-1.

On-Position Staffing Models

The staffing standards process starts by applying models of controller activity and workload that identify the number of on-position controllers (OPCs) required to control traffic within 15-minute intervals. Because controllers in different facilities have significantly different tasks, separate models exist for en route centers, towers, and terminal radar approach control (TRACON) facilities. The en route model has been reviewed previously, but part of the committee’s charter is to examine that model in particular. The next section reviews the en route center on-position staffing model and discusses its status in the context of the prior reviews. The on-position staffing models for tower and TRACON facilities are then examined.

En Route Centers

As described in Chapter 1, an en route sector is staffed by one, two, or (rarely) three controllers, depending on the amount of traffic. Multiple sectors may be combined into one large sector or a large sector split into smaller sectors to create the correct balance between the amount of traffic within each sector and the number of OPCs.

A Transportation Research Board (TRB) committee (see TRB 1997) reviewed FAA’s staffing models for terminal facilities and en route centers and questioned the parameter then used: simple counts of the number of flights within a specific area of airspace. Although FAA’s

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