6

Current and Estimated Budgets for Air Traffic Control Staffing

As part of the congressional charge for this study, the committee was asked to consider “the Administration’s current and estimated budgets and the most cost-effective staffing model to best leverage available funding.” This chapter focuses on the “current and estimated budgets” elements of the charge. It describes the costs of the air traffic control (ATC) workforce in the context of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) total workforce and budget and establishes a baseline for “available funding.” Assessment of the cost-effectiveness of FAA’s models called for in the congressional charge is provided in the Summary.

The first three sections of this chapter examine the costs of current and future ATC budgets and the estimated revenue streams available to support them. Options for reducing the cost of ATC staffing and increasing revenues are discussed. These options are presented for illustration only and should not be interpreted as committee recommendations for alternative staffing strategies. The summary section places the cost of the ATC workforce in the context of the larger FAA budget issues facing the administration and Congress.

CURRENT BUDGET

This section relies on the President’s FY 2014 and FY 2015 budget submissions for FAA. Estimated future budgets are taken from agency-level tables presented in an online appendix to the Analytical Perspectives appendix to the President’s FY 2014 and FY 2015 budget submissions.1

This chapter of the report was largely drafted during calendar year 2014, during which the President and Congress were engaged in a dispute over the federal budget and deficit. For the first 3 months of FY 2014, FAA operated under a continuing resolution that was based on the appropriated budget approved by Congress in FY 2012, as reduced by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (also referred to as sequestration).2 In January 2014, the President signed the Consolidated Appropriation Act of 2014, which implemented the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013. That act, agreed to by the President and Congress in December 2013, brought an extended period of contentious debate about the federal budget to a temporary close. It established agency budget targets for FY 2014 and FY 2015 and set aside, for FY 2014 and 2015, significant cuts to discretionary portions of the federal budget that were otherwise required under the Budget

______________

1Fiscal Year 2014 Analytical Perspectives, Budget of the U.S. Government, http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/budget/fy2014/assets/spec.pdfz, accessed September 3, 2013. Detailed tables and out-year budget estimates for FAA were taken from Table 32-1, Federal Budget by Agency and Account, http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/budget/fy2014/assets/32_1.pdf (see page 268 of 449), accessed September 3, 2013.

2 The Budget Control Act (P.L. 112-25) requires automatic reductions to most federal discretionary budgets if Congress is unable to reach agreement on a deficit control strategy (Elias et al. 2013). Sequestration cuts to FAA’s FY 2013 budget totaled $636 million, of which $486 million came from FAA Operations. During FY 2013, Congress approved legislation allowing FAA to use unspent capital funds in the Airport Improvement Program to cover part of this cut.



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4 Development and Implementation of Staffing Plan The model-based staffing standards and the staffing ranges described in Chapter 3 are developed by the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) Office of Labor Analysis (ALA) to inform an annual hiring plan. The goal of the hiring plan is to move each facility to a level consistent with the staffing range. The Air Traffic Organization (ATO) and ALA then develop an annual staffing plan, including new hires and transfers among existing staff, that serves as the basis for decisions concerning each of FAA’s 315 operational air traffic control (ATC) facilities. The execution of the staffing plans, which results in new hires and transfers and in the placement of personnel among facilities, is carried out by ATO. This chapter focuses on the methods applied by FAA in its detailed staff planning and execution. In some cases the methods were unclear to the committee; they are analyzed on the basis of FAA data represent- ing typical inputs to the methods and their outputs. The efficacy of staff planning and execution depends on the extent to which the result is con- sistent with the published controller workforce plan. That measure can change as FAA’s methods change. The chapter describes how FAA assesses current facility staffing status and explores how FAA develops its hiring and staffing plans. It describes the committee’s understanding of the execution process and illustrates how the number and location of controllers in the workforce compare with the goals of the staffing plan. Potential strategies for improvements in staff planning are noted. The final section summarizes the chapter and gives the committee’s recommendations. 80

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Development and Implementation of Staffing Plan 81 FACILITY STAFFING STATUS Assessment of Status Staff planning requires a target and a clear path for reaching it. In concept, plans for individual facilities span at least 3 years to account for losses due to attrition (such as retirements, promotions, and deaths) and the period needed to train personnel to reach full certification, which typi- cally ranges from 1 to 3 years. Achieving the target staffing level over time for a facility requires a good understanding of the current staffing sta- tus. ALA uses the head count of certified professional controllers (CPCs) and certified professional controllers in training (CPC-ITs) to assess each facility’s staffing status relative to the staffing range described in Chapter 3. Status is assessed as follows: • Above range: CPC + CPC-IT is more than 10 percent above the staff- ing range midpoint. • Within range: CPC + CPC-IT is within ±10 percent of the staffing range midpoint. • Below range: CPC + CPC-IT is more than 10 percent below the staff- ing range midpoint. In FAA’s terminology, the “above range” category is referred to as “high” staffing, the “within range” category as “acceptable” staffing, and the “below range” category as “low” staffing. Figure 4-1 is a modified version of a fig- ure that appears in the 2013 controller workforce plan. It shows several implications and potential causes of above- and below-range staffing. The committee reviewed data on FAA’s 315 ATC facilities from the end of FY 2012. According to the committee’s calculation,1 135 (repre- senting 53 percent of the CPC + CPC-IT workforce) were classified as above range, 102 (representing 34 percent of the CPC + CPC-IT work- force) were classified as within range, and 78 (representing 13 percent of the CPC + CPC-IT workforce) were classified as below range (Table 4-1). According to FAA, the large proportion of facilities that are above range is explained in part by the gradual movement of the retirement bubble 1 The committee’s calculations in the following section are based on data provided by FAA and are not rounded.

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82 FAA’s Approach for Determining Future Air Traffic Controller Staffing Needs ABOVE CHARACTERISTICS AND DRIVERS OF HIGH STAFFING LEVELS • Inefficient scheduling • Fewer losses than projected • Less overtime • Reduction in traffic volumes • Decrease in hours of operation • Temporary airport construction CONTROLLER STAFFING RANGE • Higher number of position-qualified controllers • Higher number of advance hire trainees WITHIN CHARACTERISTICS AND DRIVERS OF LOW STAFFING LEVELS • Reduced controller lost time • Greater use of overtime • Increase in traffic volumes • Increase in hours of operation • Lower number of position-qualified controllers • Lower number of advance hire trainees BELOW FIGURE 4-1 Illustration of controller staffing range. TABLE 4-1 Certified Controller Staffing Levels of FAA Facilities (End FY 2012) Facilities CPC + CPC-IT Head Count Facility Staffing Level Number Percent Number Percent Above range 135 43 6,855 53 Within range 102 32 4,319 34 Below range 78 25 1,722 13 Total 315 100 12,896 100

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Development and Implementation of Staffing Plan 83 through the workforce. The peak of controller retirements occurred in 2007, but as of FY 2012, about 3,000 controllers were still eligible to retire (i.e., roughly 20 percent). Historical trends indicate that most of this population will not retire until their 7th year of eligibility (FAA 2013, 31), and between 606 and 742 CPCs are expected to retire each year between 2013 and 2017 (FAA 2013, 33). As the wave of retirements continues, FAA expects that many facilities currently above range will fall within range. Facilities that are below, within, or above the staffing range are of all types—smaller towers that mostly serve general aviation (GA); towers that serve small and medium airports with both GA and commercial traffic; and the largest airport towers, terminal radar approach control (TRACON) facilities, and centers (Table 4-2). Facilities with relatively few staff (12 or fewer CPCs) are particularly sensitive to sudden small changes in numbers of personnel that would change their classification. A large proportion of facilities below the staffing range are towers serv- ing mostly GA and small and medium-sized airports. Nevertheless, some facilities serving important, high-volume airports and airspace fall into this category. A few of these facilities persistently appear in this category and have been deemed as chronically “hard to staff ” for a variety of rea- sons. For example, according to the FY 2013 controller workforce plan, the staffing range for the Oakland, California, en route center is 185 to 226, whereas it has only 154 CPCs. The staffing range of the New York TRACON (serving JFK, LaGuardia, Newark, and Teterboro airports) is TABLE 4-2 Facility Staffing Relative to Staffing Range, FY 2012 Below Within Above Major Facility Type Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent Smallest towers, mostly 21 27 16 16 36 27 for GA Small and medium-sized 45 58 56 55 56 41 airport towers Large towers, TRACONs, 12 15 30 29 43 32 and en route centers Total 78 100 102 100 135 100

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84 FAA’s Approach for Determining Future Air Traffic Controller Staffing Needs 178 to 218, whereas it has 156 CPCs.2 Each of these facilities is assigned CPC-ITs and developmental controllers to raise its total staffing level to at least the bottom of the range. However, new personnel are not quali- fied to staff all the positions at the facilities, and current CPCs must spend time training them. San Juan and Guam, which pose their own unique challenges, are included among the hard-to-staff facilities. Many staff at facilities that are classified as above the range are located at air route traffic control centers (en route centers). The 23 en route centers have 200 to 400 certified controllers each and represent a large proportion of the fully certified controllers in the system (roughly 44 percent at the end of FY 2012). About half of the centers (12) were in the “above” category at the end of FY 2012. Roughly 30 percent of the CPCs in the centers classified as above the range midpoint were eli- gible for retirement in FY 2012. These centers tend to have large numbers of CPC-ITs and developmental controllers receiving training to replace CPCs as they retire. Moving a facility that is classified as above or below the range toward its staffing target is a multiyear process. Each facility’s workforce may contain “homesteader” controllers who do not wish to move once they settle into a facility, establish households, and build ties to their com- munities. Inducing staff to move away from facilities that are within or above the staffing range to those that are below the range can be difficult. Building up a facility that is understaffed requires lead time for bringing new personnel on board (either from other facilities or as new hires) and training them. For both new and transferring employees, the training time varies dramatically with the individual’s level of experience. Data provided by ALA allowed the committee to analyze a variety of additional metrics relative to the above–within–below classifications in the FY 2013 controller workforce plan. The metrics examine workforce composition, overtime usage, and time on position from the perspec- tives of “working certified positions” and “on-the-job training.” Table 4-3 shows how the metrics vary with staffing status. 2 FAA calculates a facility’s staffing status on the basis of combined CPCs and CPC-ITs. In FY 2013, this metric indicated that both the Oakland center and the New York TRACON were below range.

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Development and Implementation of Staffing Plan 85 TABLE 4-3 Metrics for FAA ATC Facilities Above Within Below Metric Range Range Range Systemwide Staffing level (CPC + CPC-IT) as percentage of staffing 120 100 81 106 range midpoint Percentage of staff who are CPCs 83 74 83 77 Overtime hours as percentage of all hours worked 1.4 3.5 3.6 2.4 Percentage of time on position performed by CPCs 90 85 80 87 Percentage of CPC time on position also providing 8 10 11 9 on-the-job training to non-CPCs Percentage of non-CPC time on position also receiving 41 35 30 36 on-the-job training Note: Non-CPCs = certified professional controllers in training + developmental controllers. The following are observations on the metrics presented in the table: • On the basis of the CPC + CPC-IT assessment, the “below” and “above” staffing level percentages are more than 10 percent away from the staffing range boundaries—the group above the range midpoint is roughly 20 percent above and the group below the range midpoint is almost 20 percent below.3 • The controller pipeline (all staffing qualification levels except CPC) constitutes 23 percent of the workforce. On the basis of an analysis of ALA-provided data, that number has remained little changed, ranging from 23 to 27 percent during the preceding 5 years. • As would be expected, overtime usage at sites below the staffing range is more than twice that of sites above the staffing range. • As the staffing level relative to the staffing range midpoint increases, CPCs perform a greater portion of the total time on position. This implies that in facilities categorized as below range, CPC-ITs and devel- opmental controllers contribute a larger share of productive work because the facilities lack an adequate number of fully qualified CPCs. 3 These estimates are based on the numbers of staff in each category (the total staff in all facilities that are below, within, or above range compared with the total staff estimated by the staffing range midpoint). The estimates are not based on the average of each facility’s rating relative to the staff- ing range midpoint, since the estimate would be skewed by the small number of small facilities that are substantially below or above the staffing range.

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86 FAA’s Approach for Determining Future Air Traffic Controller Staffing Needs • The proportion of CPC time on position devoted to on-the-job train- ing increases slightly at the facilities categorized as below range. This is likely because CPCs at facilities that are not adequately staffed need to provide developmental controllers with more training time. Are There Other Methods for Comparing Current Staffing Levels with Staffing Ranges? The staffing standards process described in Chapter 3 estimates the num- ber of controller positions that need to be staffed during every 15-minute interval and develops nominal schedules, daily staffing, and overall facil- ity staffing strengths to meet these demands. No consideration is given to the extent to which each facility will be staffed by CPCs, CPC-ITs, and developmentals. According to FY 2012 data provided to the committee by ALA, CPCs made up only 77 percent of the workforce; the remainder was made up of CPC-ITs (8 percent), developmentals (10 percent), and recent hires at earlier stages (FAA Academy graduates at the operational sites, 4 percent; candidates at the academy, 1 percent). In FY 2012, some 11,753 CPCs served 10.6 million hours on position (averaging 902 hours per year per controller); the 3,310 CPC-ITs, developmentals, and acad- emy graduates served 1.6 million hours on position (averaging 496 hours per year). This limited comparison suggests that the average non-CPC is “working certified positions” at a rate slightly more than half (55 percent) that of a CPC and that the total non-CPC workforce performs 13 percent of the required time on position. No clear distinction between the contributions of CPC-ITs and devel- opmental controllers can be made. CPC-ITs typically progress more quickly than developmentals, but many factors can cause differences among facilities. For example, a CPC who transfers from a small tower to an en route center will need to undergo the same extensive training as a new hire would experience and may have a similar chance of successful certification. Thus, how should actual staffing levels be compared with staffing ranges that were generated, in large part, from the staffing standards? The method used in the controller workforce plan assesses the sum of CPCs and CPC-ITs at each facility, even though the CPC-ITs may not be able to staff each position. Furthermore, carving out CPC-ITs in the

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Development and Implementation of Staffing Plan 87 baseline assessment of facility staffing status in such a generalized form fails to account for nuances in training progression mentioned above and could result in an inaccurate depiction of facility staffing capacity. A more conservative method would compare the CPCs at each facility with the staffing range. By this method, 113 of the 315 facilities fall below the staffing range minimum and 62 exceed the maximum. However, this method does not consider the impact of the CPC-ITs and developmentals at each facility. This omission can have the following effects: • The progress of the CPC-ITs and developmentals through the certification process and the contributions of the CPC-ITs and devel- opmentals in terms of the positions that they are able to staff would not be reflected. A comparison of the number of CPCs at a facility with its staffing range would be misleading in a short-term assessment of facility staffing. • The additional training demands created by the CPC-ITs and devel- opmentals on the facility, notably the on-the-job training provided by the CPCs, would not be reflected. Thus, a comparison of the number of CPCs at a facility with its staffing range may incorrectly imply that it is within or above range. • The extent to which the comparison of the number of CPCs with the staffing range may change once staff qualify at a facility would not be reflected. A facility that appears to be below range in one year may appear to be within or above range the next, not because its staff- ing levels have changed but because of successful training of the staff already at the facility. An assessment based on a more detailed analysis of the certification status of the personnel at a facility would be more relevant. Attrition models could be refined to reflect historical trends in achieving various position certifications at a given type and level of facility (or even at an individual facility). A controller equivalent workforce (CEW) metric could emerge as a measure of a facility’s current status given the quali- fication levels of its controllers. Such a metric would allow for within- year comparisons of staffing levels with the staffing ranges and provide a perspective with regard to planning for hires. Such a comparison could help flag facilities that are lagging in reaching necessary levels.

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88 FAA’s Approach for Determining Future Air Traffic Controller Staffing Needs A CEW metric will require careful analysis and development. Its application should be limited to assessing the capacity of a facility to staff its positions and bring its CPC-ITs and developmentals up to fully qualified status. That capacity may vary with several factors, including facility type and the ratio of CPCs to trainees (i.e., CPC-ITs and devel- opmentals). The notional estimates of relative contributions given above may serve in the aggregate, but the CEW of a facility should be calculated in a manner that reflects the facility’s capacity to staff its positions and train its new members.4 For example, a facility with a large number of CPC-ITs and develop- mentals may have difficulty in scheduling them into positions for which they are qualified, which would limit their effective contribution. Fur- thermore, the CPCs may not be able to staff positions as assumed in the staffing standards while providing on-the-job training (i.e., the CEW of such CPCs may need to be less than 1.0). (Such analysis may substantiate the general axiom within FAA that CPCs must make up at least 65 per- cent of a facility’s workforce.) In contrast, at a facility with a high propor- tion of CPCs, it may be easier to schedule CPC-ITs and developmentals into positions where they can contribute and easier for CPCs to provide them with on-the-job training. STAFF PLANNING The controller workforce at individual facilities is in constant flux. There is a recurring need to reevaluate the staffing status at each facility and identify the strength adjustments required for maintaining or achieving optimal staffing levels. Figure 4-2 provides an overview of the process. The annual hiring plan is an important strength management tool. The process begins with ALA. For each site, the general approach consists of the following: • Projecting the population forward to a specified date, with retirements, promotions, developmental failures, and other attrition factored in; 4 The estimates of time on position by controllers with varied levels of certification discussed in this section are based on data provided by ALA. If the CEW approach to estimating contributions to workload by controllers in training is pursued by FAA, it would need to verify that time on posi- tion data are captured accurately.

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Development and Implementation of Staffing Plan 89 CONTROLLER WORKFORCE PLANNING Past Productivity Service Unit Historically Best Input Productivity AVERAGE Not Always Used Peer Productivity Model-Based Staffing Similar Facilities’ Standard Productivity Staffing Range A B C D Current Attrition Staffing Staffing Staff and Gap Target * (Actual Certification on Board) Forecast Academy and Developmental Attrition Facility Level ALA Modeled ATO–Service Staffing Plan Hiring Hiring Unit (Hires and Plan Targets Consultation Transfers) New Hires Plan Execution *Historically, the staffing target was the staffing Transfers standard; however the staffing target could also be the staffing range midpoint beginning in FY 2014. FIGURE 4-2 Controller workforce planning process from staff planning through achievement of staffing level.

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90 FAA’s Approach for Determining Future Air Traffic Controller Staffing Needs • Identifying the gap between the result of this projection and the staffing target (be it staffing standard or staffing range midpoint); and • Estimating the number of new hires needed to close the gap. Let y denote the year for which the number of new hires is being estimated. For each facility f, define the following: t(f ) = length of the training cycle for facility f This is the nominal time required for a new hire to achieve full qualifica- tion (CPC status) at facility f. ALA uses 1-, 2-, and 3-year values in its planning. Then y + t(f ) is the year in which controllers hired in year y would achieve CPC status at facility f. p(y + t( f )) = number of CPCs projected to be at facility f in year y + t(f ) The number includes residual CPCs from the beginning of year y and the various non-CPCs who achieve CPC status during the interval. ALA uses historical attrition and developmental data to estimate the surviving population in both categories. tgt(y + t(f )) = staffing target for facility f in year y + t(f ) Before the FY 2014 controller workforce plan, the staffing target was the staffing standard. For the FY 2014 controller workforce plan, both the staffing standard and the staffing range midpoint will be evaluated as the staffing target. a(t(f )) = attrition rate of new hires at facility f over the training cycle The survival rate of new hires over that interval is thus 1 - a(t(f )). h(y, f ) = number of new hires planned for facility f in year y If p(y + t(f )) ≥ tgt(y + t( f )) then h(y, f ) = 0

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Development and Implementation of Staffing Plan 97 households. To take a longer time dimension into account, the commit- tee examined plan execution for FY 2011 through FY 2013, for which ALA provided annual comparisons of planned versus executed staffing. The committee categorized the execution of a facility’s staffing plan as “under,” “proper,” or “over” as follows: • For a small planning value (i.e., calling for fewer than 10 staff changes at the facility), the “proper” range was set at plan ± 1. For example, a staffing plan of 5 executed at 4, 5, or 6 would be considered “proper”; it would be considered “under” if execution 6. • For a planning value ≥ 10, the “proper” range was set at plan ± 10%, analogous to how ALA defines the staffing range. For example, a staffing plan of 20 executed at 18 through 22 would be considered “proper”; it would be considered “under” if execution 22. Systemwide, the FY 2011 plan of 829 was executed at 822 and the FY 2012 plan of 961 was executed at 925. The FY 2013 plan of 1,315 was severely underexecuted at 554 because of the sequester of FAA funding. The facility counts by execution category are given in Table 4-7. Even for FY 2011 and FY 2012, which were not affected by the sequester, there was no apparent management discipline to ensure that execution TABLE 4-7 Planned Versus Executed Hires and Transfers Number of Facilities Category FY 2011 FY 2012 FY 2013 System Overexecuted 51 81 53 Properly executed 230 163 138 Underexecuted 34 71 124 Total 315 315 315 Centers Overexecuted 0 4 1 Properly executed 22 12 3 Underexecuted 1 7 19 Total 23 23 23 Terminals Overexecuted 51 77 52 Properly executed 208 151 135 Underexecuted 33 64 105 Total 292 292 292

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98 FAA’s Approach for Determining Future Air Traffic Controller Staffing Needs was in accordance with the plan: 73 percent of the facilities “properly” executed in FY 2011, and only 52 percent did so in FY 2012. The differ- ences between FAA’s staffing plan and execution of the plan emerged late in the committee’s deliberations, past the time when further dialogue with FAA staff might have provided explanations for the discrepancies. The committee understands that the execution process is complex and involves considerations by facility managers and higher-level staff within ATO. Furthermore, the committee does not have a full understanding of how the staffing plan is carried out and who makes final decisions on hiring and transfers. Nonetheless, because staffing levels are in flux, poor execution of the staffing plan in a particular year makes it more difficult to achieve the staffing target in a future year. The committee does not know whether the discrepancies between plans and execution are caused by improper execution or by a difference of opinion between ALA and ATO with regard to appropriate staffing levels at individual facilities. STRATEGIES TO IMPROVE FACILITY STAFFING FAA faces many challenges in steering staffing levels toward its goals. In the intensely competitive airline industry, carriers can pull out of major facilities on short notice, as in Columbus, Ohio; Memphis, Tennessee; St. Louis, Missouri; Raleigh, North Carolina; and San Jose, California, leaving behind a tower whose staff was built up over many years. Unless controllers are moved against their will, many years of attrition may be required before the facility is rightsized. Voluntary requests for transfers are placed by only a small proportion of the controller workforce, and as noted above, FAA apparently makes little effort to steer the transfer requests from facilities that are above the range to those that are below. Possible opportunities available to FAA that could facilitate the rightsizing of individual facilities are discussed in the following subsections. Career Advancement Within the Controller Workforce In theory, controllers have several paths for career advancement. Some include the transition to management and supervisory positions. Of interest here is the progression from lower-level facilities with light traf- fic demand and simple traffic flows to progressively higher-level facilities serving the busiest airspace with the most complex traffic.

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Development and Implementation of Staffing Plan 99 FAA’s maximum salaries for controllers appear to be structured in a way that should encourage controllers to move from lower- to higher- level facilities to achieve higher incomes. For example, a CPC who pro- gresses from a Level 8 tower to a Level 12 facility could increase his or her maximum pay by 40 percent. However, controllers express concerns about the cost of moving households, movement into areas with higher costs of living, and the risks of transferring from a lower- to a higher- level facility and then failing to qualify.9 Despite the impediments, for those controllers eager to advance, a career progression from lower- to higher-level facilities implies that at least some lower- and midlevel facilities could not only handle their own traffic demand but also help in training controllers for higher-level facili- ties. Such facilities could serve as the foundation of an apprenticeship model. Staffing plans would need to allocate more developmentals and CPC-ITs from even lower-level facilities to these “training grounds” than are required by the staff-to-traffic philosophy underlying the staffing stan- dard and staffing range described in Chapter 3. The staffing plan could involve the CPCs at the training ground facilities in helping the higher- level facilities select and train suitable candidates for advancement. For a career progression to work, FAA would probably need to be more explicit with new staff about expectations concerning the need to move to advance their careers, and FAA and the National Air Traffic Control- lers Association (NATCA) would need to agree on policies to induce staff movements from facilities that have ample staff to those that do not. Career progression policies might take a different approach at centers, which are large enough to afford internal staff progression opportunities. The need for an apprenticeship model was demonstrated in the cases of some high-level facilities that required new controllers because of high attrition. Under past policies, new controllers were placed directly into these facilities; the facilities were not able to advertise for and transfer in controllers who had proved capable in facilities one level down in difficulty. The resulting failure-to-qualify rates, especially at hard-to-staff facilities such as the New York TRACON, imposed a significant training burden and wasted resources, and the nonqualifiers had to be replaced in subsequent 9 Dean Iacopelli and Eugene Freedman, NATCA, presentation to the committee, January 2013; and Andrew LeBovidge, committee member and NATCA representative, personal communication to Safety subgroup of the committee, March 19, 2013.

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100 FAA’s Approach for Determining Future Air Traffic Controller Staffing Needs years’ staffing plans at the cost of significant delay.10 The failure rates also discouraged new controllers from indicating an interest in these facilities. More recently, ATO has avoided the placement of newly hired controllers in high-level facilities. However, ATO has no choice but to place newly hired controllers in some hard-to-staff facilities that do not attract adequate trans- fers, such as the New York TRACON, in the hope that some will qualify. FAA has recognized some of the concerns described above and char- tered an independent review panel that provided several recommen- dations in 2011 on candidate selection, hiring, facility assignment, and training within the controller workforce (Barr et al. 2011). FAA, in con- cert with NATCA, is moving forward with many of the recommendations that are relevant to this section, particularly with regard to strengthening the initial selection and facility assignment by ATO. However, the extent to which facility assignment takes facility staffing into account relative to the staffing standard is unclear. Furthermore, the committee could find no consistent or formal policy for career advancement or for designation of training ground facilities within the staff planning processes, although an informal process appears to be in place under which certain facilities serve as training grounds for higher-level facilities. Hard-to-Staff Facilities All facilities have some level of concern with regard to selection and training, transfers, and career advancement. Certain facilities experience these concerns to such a degree that they are chronically understaffed and are considered hard to staff. In the past, FAA sent new hires into these facilities to fill gaps and allowed transfers of CPCs from low-level towers into large TRACONs and centers. The result was unacceptably high attrition, because some hard-to-staff facilities manage traffic that is among the most demanding in the nation. Recent initiatives at FAA include development and validation of oper- ational assessments to prescreen applicants to specific facilities to maxi- mize training success. They are still considered pilot programs and are 10 Dean Iacopelli and Eugene Freedman, NATCA, presentation to the committee, January 2013. Rich McCormick, Gene Burdick, and David Burkholder, briefing to a subgroup of the committee at FAA headquarters, August 29, 2013.

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Development and Implementation of Staffing Plan 101 not yet institutionalized and available to all the facilities that may benefit from such a program. Additional incentives may be required to encour- age more transfers into hard-to-staff facilities. Selection and Training FAA’s generation and execution of safe, efficient staffing plans are affected by its ability to select and train controllers with confidence that they will qualify into the facility. Selection and training are complicated by differences in the necessary level of skills among facilities: higher-level facilities (those handling more complex, higher-volume traffic) require special skills developed over years of training, and not all controllers may be appropriate for such facilities. New entrants to the controller workforce who have finished at the academy are not considered fully trained. Once they move to an operational facility, they are categorized as developmentals. They require additional training and must qualify on all positions in the facility before they attain CPC status. When control- lers transition between facilities, they are categorized as CPC-ITs until they qualify on all positions in the new facility. CPC-ITs also require further training when they move to a higher-level facility, and they may not qualify. The training within the facility must be conducted by CPCs who are certified as trainers. Staff planning must consider the impact of placing a large number of developmentals and CPC-ITs into a facility in terms of the training burden imposed on the CPCs and the risks of high rates of attrition (Barr et al. 2011). (FAA attempts to limit the proportion of trainees at a facility to 35 percent of total personnel to avoid overburdening CPCs with training duties.) The core of controller training is conducted with the developmental or CPC-IT actively working on an operational posi- tion under the direct supervision of a CPC instructor, who is responsible for intervening in case of any problems. While such on-the-job train- ing is necessary, committee discussions with senior FAA safety staff and National Transportation Safety Board investigators indicate that it may create a safety concern if it is not monitored properly. Thus, care must be taken to avoid overloading a facility with more developmentals and CPC-ITs than it can train safely and effectively, and the impact of on-the- job training on safety requires close monitoring.

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102 FAA’s Approach for Determining Future Air Traffic Controller Staffing Needs Efficient Shift Scheduling As indicated in Chapters 2 and 3, providing a scheduling tool to facilities would benefit safety (in terms of fatigue) and the generation of staffing standards and the staffing plan. The discussion in this chapter reflects the operational aspects of generating efficient schedules. Each facility generates its own schedule. Committee members have seen examples of schedules generated through the use of locally developed white boards and spread- sheets. In many cases, a default schedule template has evolved within a facility over several years and is familiar to supervisors and the controller workforce there. The operational benefits of providing a tool to facilities to assist in maximizing the efficiency of shift coverage and to clarify to the workforce at the facility how schedules are developed are described here. The benefits with regard to fatigue mitigation and staff planning will only be realized if the facility applies the tool to generate the schedules that are actually used. Such a mandate for facilities to use the tool, and perhaps some constraints on the schedules that they may select from it, must consider the operational realities of each facility. One centralized schedule cannot work for all facilities. First, traffic may be heavy or light for different facilities at different times of day. Second, each facility may have local concerns such as preventing shifts from starting or ending during peak-hour traffic to avoid long commutes during recuperative breaks. Airservices Australia has completed such an effort, and positive results were reported to the committee. The organization’s scheduling capabil- ity is integrated with fatigue risk management so that schedules can be created in accordance with fatigue risk management principles and the fatigue risk of any necessary changes can be considered. With regard to providing facilities with a measure of local control and flexibility, each facility has three default schedule templates to select from. If facil- ity management believes that none of the defaults adequately reflects its circumstances, it may propose a fourth to headquarters. As part of fatigue risk management, the scheduling tool helps identify circum- stances under which, for example, offering a controller a taxi ride home after an unexpected, unusually long shift may be warranted. Thus, the scheduling tool can inform and guide the generation of efficient schedules that take into account the principles of fatigue risk

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Development and Implementation of Staffing Plan 103 management at each facility, yet each facility should be provided with the flexibility to adapt the schedules to local considerations. The schedules can have significant professional and personal impact on controllers, so they will be most effective if they are developed collaboratively with the workforce. Communication Between Operations and Staff Planning Generation of the staffing standards and staffing plan is inherently a function of central planning units in ALA and ATO at FAA headquar- ters. However, the facilities need a well-defined way of communicat- ing their needs in the development of the staffing plan, particularly if unusual or unique circumstances are not reflected in the mathemati- cal models underlying the planning process. Such communication requires clarity with regard to how the facilities’ current staffing levels were assessed and how the transition toward the staffing targets will occur. Several entities need to be involved. In addition to communication up and down the organizational chain from facility to regional service unit to centralized planning at FAA headquarters, the communication should involve the workforce at all levels. Horizontal coordination within the organization between facilities and service units would often be benefi- cial. Furthermore, independent review panels and working groups that are asked to examine staffing-related concerns need the ability to com- municate their findings and recommendations through the organization so that improvements are broadly reflected. The committee was unable to achieve a clear understanding concern- ing the communication of facility concerns in the development of the staffing plan. Various processes appear to be involved, and they appear to change over time. A more consistent and transparent communication process is needed. SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS At the end of FY 2012, the majority of FAA facilities were either above (43 percent of facilities) or below (25 percent of facilities) the staffing range established in the FY 2013 controller workforce plan. A reason-

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104 FAA’s Approach for Determining Future Air Traffic Controller Staffing Needs able expectation is that FAA intends to move these facilities toward their staffing targets over time. After ALA uses the staffing targets to develop a hiring plan, ALA and ATO agree on a staffing plan for new hires and transfers that is intended to establish agency goals for these facilities. The staffing plan agreed on by ALA and ATO for FY 2012 is 6.5 percent above what the modeled out- put suggests is appropriate. Explanations for the discrepancy included the need to account for local circumstances and facility manager judg- ment, but no documentation or criteria were available to the committee to justify a discrepancy of this magnitude or to indicate that the staff- ing standard is low. It is certainly appropriate for facilities to provide input into the staffing plan, but a transparent process is needed by which facilities can understand what the various staffing standards, targets, and ranges represent and then provide their input in an informed manner. The staff hiring determined in the ALA hiring plan and the staff planning methods themselves may be erroneous because FAA’s assessment of facility staffing does not appropriately account for non-CPC controllers. If the CEW concept described above is developed and proves effective, FAA would have better insight into a given facility’s short- and midterm staffing status. On the basis of the data the committee examined, FAA appears to execute its staffing plan as intended in the aggregate, but there are dif- ficult-to-understand discrepancies at the level of specific facilities. For example, as indicated in Table 4-7, 73 percent of FAA’s facilities success- fully implemented planned hires and transfers in FY 2011, but only 52 percent did so in FY 2012. Discrepancies between staffing plans and their execution compound the difficulty of achieving staffing goals. There was a significant discrepancy between the transfers planned for FY 2012 (563) and the number executed (744). The number of staff trans- fers allowed annually is roughly two-thirds the number of new hires and about 5 percent of the total workforce. Furthermore, any transfer action may require two training cycle events—one for the person transferring into a new facility and one for the person replacing the transferee. Thus, transfers can influence whether facilities move toward FAA’s staffing tar- gets. FAA appears to lack a strategy and mechanisms to influence transfers toward this end. The committee does not fully understand how the execution of staff planning works in practice and whether it corrects staff imbalances over

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Development and Implementation of Staffing Plan 105 time. From the data available to the committee, the execution process does not appear to be doing so. This topic is worthy of further examination. There appear to be enduring differences between the staffing targets developed by ALA and the staffing in the field as executed by ATO. The differences may be caused by poor execution of the annual staffing plans or by a difference of opinion within FAA with regard to the appropriate level of staffing at individual facilities. Recommendation 4-1. FAA should examine the merits of using a more appropriate analysis of facility demographics (e.g., the CEW concept) in place of the CPC + CPC-IT metric when it assesses facility staffing status and develops its annual staffing plans. Recommendation 4-2. FAA should develop explicit criteria with regard to when and why the staffing plan for a given year can exceed the hiring plan based on the staffing standard. Recommendation 4-3. FAA should ensure that the field understands how facilities’ staffing levels (current and target) are assessed and offer a transparent process by which facilities can provide input on facility staff- ing levels established in the annual staffing plan. Recommendation 4-4. FAA should make more effective use of voluntary transfers to rebalance the workforce among facilities considered to have high staffing levels and those considered to have low levels, particularly where it can leverage controllers’ desire to transfer on the basis of hard- ship, career advancement, or personal circumstances. Such a strategic process would need to include the following: • Suitable incentives for transfers, developed and agreed on by FAA and NATCA, that would help rectify staffing imbalances, including estab- lishment of a policy for resolving situations in which controllers who are willing to risk transferring to a higher-level facility fail to qualify into that facility; and • Systemwide processes and management of transfer requests to con- sider their impact on facility staffing, so that facilities with low staffing levels do not miss voluntary transfers claimed first by facilities with acceptable or high staffing levels.

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106 FAA’s Approach for Determining Future Air Traffic Controller Staffing Needs Recommendation 4-5. FAA should establish and advertise a clear path for the career advancement of controllers. They should be mentored and should understand the expectations on which their advancement will depend, and those expectations should be understood in staff planning and at the training ground facilities. Recommendation 4-6. FAA should adopt a formal apprenticeship model that reflects the potential of lower-level facilities to serve as training grounds and sources for transfers into higher-level facilities. An infor- mal system appears to be at work across some facilities. A more formal and well-communicated model may work more effectively. Lower-level facilities would need to be staffed in a way that reflects their dual role of serving traffic at the facility and bearing a heavy training burden. FAA and NATCA will need to work together to develop incentives to keep controllers moving upward through the system at an appropriate rate. To function effectively, such an apprenticeship model must be trans- parent to the workforce. Clear designation of the facilities is a first step. Controllers should be mentored with regard to furthering their career development. Standard policies or documentation should be available to controllers indicating how long they might be placed in lower- and mid- level facilities and when they would be expected to transfer to higher- level facilities. Controllers would be more motivated to participate in career development if selection processes were in place to reduce the risk that they might not qualify into a new, higher-level facility and if clear policies were in place for handling their reassignment should they not qualify. Recommendation 4-7. FAA should work with NATCA in developing and implementing special measures to address the concerns of hard-to-staff facilities. Such measures might include • Incentives to transfer to and reside near the facility; • Selection processes and policies that would prescreen controllers will- ing to transfer to facilities and identify controllers likely to qualify (and not qualify); • Policies for reassignment of trainees who fail to qualify, to remove disincentives for potential applicants to the facility; and

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Development and Implementation of Staffing Plan 107 • Methods for training controllers at facilities one level down in dif- ficulty to nearly the level required at the hard-to-staff facility, thus minimizing the training requirement once they are on site. Recommendation 4-8. In its staff planning, FAA should consider the impact of placing a large number of developmental controllers and CPC- ITs into a facility in terms of the training burden on the facility. FAA should monitor for any safety concerns arising with intensive on-the-job training within facilities. Workforce, facility, and service units should be able to communicate concerns as feedback into the staff planning process. Recommendation 4-9. FAA and NATCA should collaborate in implement- ing a scheduling tool and procedures for its use at each facility. They should establish standard schedule templates suitable for each facility’s traffic pat- terns. More than one standard schedule should be available to each facility, and a “request for further consideration of unique circumstances” process should be available to facilities who believe that local circumstances require adjustment to their schedule templates. The scheduling tool and associ- ated procedures should allow each facility to design, revise, and publish schedules that take best practices in efficient shift scheduling and fatigue mitigation into consideration. The scheduling templates used at the facility should be transparent and available to others, including those performing the staffing process. This may be fostered by the scheduling tool having the capability of archiving the scheduling templates in a manner that allows different organizations to access them. REFERENCES Abbreviation FAA Federal Aviation Administration Barr, M., T. Brady, G. Koleszar, M. New, and J. Pounds. 2011. FAA Independent Review Panel on the Selection, Assignment and Training of Air Traffic Control Specialists. Final report. FAA, Sept. 22. FAA. 2013. A Plan for the Future: 10-Year Strategy for the Air Traffic Control Workforce, 2013–2022. http://www.faa.gov/air_traffic/publications/controller_staffing/media/ CWP_2013.pdf.