Transportation Research Board
Special Report 314
Federal Aviation Administration’s
Approach for Determining
Future Air Traffic Controller
Committee for Study of Federal Aviation Administration Air Traffic Controller Staffing
Transportation Research Board
Board on Human–Systems Integration
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education
NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
Transportation Research Board
Washington, D.C. 20001
Transportation Research Board Special Report 314
Aviation; safety and human factors
Transportation Research Board publications are available by ordering individual publications directly from the TRB Business Office, through the Internet at www.TRB.org or national-academies.org/trb, or by annual subscription through organizational or individual affiliation with TRB. Affiliates and library subscribers are eligible for substantial discounts. For further information, contact the Transportation Research Board Business Office, 500 Fifth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001 (telephone 202-334-3213; fax 202-334-2519; or e-mail TRBsales@nas.edu).
Copyright 2014 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Printed in the United States of America.
NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competencies and with regard for appropriate balance.
This report has been reviewed by a group other than the authors according to the procedures approved by a Report Review Committee consisting of members of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine.
This study was sponsored by the Federal Aviation Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine
The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. On the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences.
The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. C. D. (Dan) Mote, Jr., is president of the National Academy of Engineering.
The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser o the federal government and, on its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine.
The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both the Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. C. D. (Dan) Mote, Jr., are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council.
The Transportation Research Board is one of six major divisions of the National Research Council. The mission of the Transportation Research Board is to provide leader hip in transportation innovation and progress through research and information exchange, conducted within a setting that is objective, interdisciplinary, and multimodal. The Board’s varied activities annually engage about 7,000 engineers, scientists, and other transportation researchers and practitioners from the public and private sectors and academia, all of whom contribute their expertise in the public interest. The program is supported by state transportation departments, federal agencies including the component administrations of the U.S. Department of Transportation, and other organizations and individuals interested in the development of transportation. www.TRB.org
Transportation Research Board 2014 Executive Committee*
Chair: Kirk T. Steudle, Director, Michigan Department of Transportation, Lansing
Vice Chair: Daniel Sperling, Professor of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science and Policy; Director, Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis
Executive Director: Robert E. Skinner, Jr., Transportation Research Board
Victoria A. Arroyo, Executive Director, Georgetown Climate Center, and Visiting Professor, Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, D.C.
Scott E. Bennett, Director, Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department, Little Rock
Deborah H. Butler, Executive Vice President, Planning, and CIO, Norfolk Southern Corporation, Norfolk, Virginia (Past Chair, 2013)
James M. Crites, Executive Vice President of Operations, Dallas–Fort Worth International Airport, Texas
Malcolm Dougherty, Director, California Department of Transportation, Sacramento
A. Stewart Fotheringham, Professor and Director, Centre for Geoinformatics, School of Geography and Geosciences, University of St. Andrews, Fife, United Kingdom
John S. Halikowski, Director, Arizona Department of Transportation, Phoenix
Michael W. Hancock, Secretary, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, Frankfort
Susan Hanson, Distinguished University Professor Emerita, School of Geography, Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts
Steve Heminger, Executive Director, Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Oakland, California
Chris T. Hendrickson, Duquesne Light Professor of Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Jeffrey D. Holt, Managing Director, Bank of Montreal Capital Markets, and Chairman, Utah Transportation Commission, Huntsville, Utah
Gary P. LaGrange, President and CEO, Port of New Orleans, Louisiana
Michael P. Lewis, Director, Rhode Island Department of Transportation, Providence
Joan McDonald, Commissioner, New York State Department of Transportation, Albany
Abbas Mohaddes, President and CEO, Iteris, Inc., Santa Ana, California
Donald A. Osterberg, Senior Vice President, Safety and Security, Schneider National, Inc., Green Bay, Wisconsin
Steven W. Palmer, Vice President of Transportation, Lowe’s Companies, Inc., Mooresville, North Carolina
Sandra Rosenbloom, Professor, University of Texas, Austin (Past Chair, 2012)
Henry G. (Gerry) Schwartz, Jr., Chairman (retired), Jacobs/Sverdrup Civil, Inc., St. Louis, Missouri
Kumares C. Sinha, Olson Distinguished Professor of Civil Engineering, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana
Gary C. Thomas, President and Executive Director, Dallas Area Rapid Transit, Dallas, Texas
Paul Trombino III, Director, Iowa Department of Transportation, Ames
Phillip A. Washington, General Manager, Regional Transportation District, Denver, Colorado
Thomas P. Bostick (Lt. General, U.S. Army), Chief of Engineers and Commanding General, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Washington, D.C. (ex officio)
Alison Jane Conway, Assistant Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, City College of New York, New York, and Chair, TRB Young Members Council (ex officio)
Anne S. Ferro, Administrator, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation (ex officio)
* Membership as of June 2014.
David J. Friedman, Acting Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation (ex officio)
John T. Gray II, Senior Vice President, Policy and Economics, Association of American Railroads, Washington, D.C. (ex officio)
Michael P. Huerta, Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation (ex officio)
Paul N. Jaenichen, Sr., Acting Administrator, Maritime Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation (ex officio)
Therese W. McMillan, Acting Administrator, Federal Transit Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation (ex officio)
Michael P. Melaniphy, President and CEO, American Public Transportation Association, Washington, D.C. (ex officio)
Victor M. Mendez, Administrator, Federal Highway Administration, and Acting Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Transportation (ex officio)
Robert J. Papp (Adm., U.S. Coast Guard), Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (ex officio)
Cynthia L. Quarterman, Administrator, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation (ex officio)
Peter M. Rogoff, Acting Under Secretary for Policy, U.S. Department of Transportation (ex officio)
Craig A. Rutland, U.S. Air Force Pavement Engineer, Air Force Civil Engineer Center, Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida (ex officio)
Joseph C. Szabo, Administrator, Federal Railroad Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation (ex officio)
Barry R. Wallerstein, Executive Officer, South Coast Air Quality Management District, Diamond Bar, California (ex officio)
Gregory D. Winfree, Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology, Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of Transportation (ex officio)
Frederick G. (Bud) Wright, Executive Director, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, Washington, D.C. (ex officio)
Board on Human–Systems Integration
Nancy J. Cooke (Chair), College of Technology and Innovation and Department of Biomedical Informatics, Arizona State University
Ellen J. Bass, College of Computing and Informatics and College of Nursing and Health Professions, Drexel University
Pascale Carayon, Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering and Center for Quality and Productivity Improvement, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Sara J. Czaja, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Industrial Engineering, University of Miami
Francis (Frank) T. Durso, School of Psychology, Georgia Institute of Technology
Andrew S. Imada, A.S. Imada and Associates, Carmichael, CA
Karl S. Pister (NAE), University of California, Berkeley (Emeritus)
David Rempel, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco
Matthew Rizzo, Department of Neurological Sciences, University of Nebraska Medical Center
Barbara Silverstein, Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, Olympia, WA
David H. Wegman, Department of Work Environment, University of Massachusetts Lowell (Emeritus)
Barbara A. Wanchisen, Board Director
Mickelle Rodriguez, Program Coordinator
Committee for a Study of Federal Aviation Administration Air Traffic Controller Staffing
Amy R. Pritchett, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Chair
Mathias Basner, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
Peter J. Basso, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (retired), Rockville, Maryland
Lawrence M. Cole, Aloft Aviation Consulting, Fredericksburg, Virginia
Mary L. Cummings, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina
Francis T. Durso, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta
John J. Fearnsides, MJF Strategies, LLC, Washington, D.C.
Andrew LeBovidge, National Air Traffic Controllers Association, Spring, Texas
Amedeo R. Odoni, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge
Norman T. O’Meara, Logistics Management Institute, McLean, Virginia
Clinton V. Oster, Jr., Indiana University (emeritus), Troy, Montana
Roger Wall, FedEx Corporation (retired), Kent, Washington
Transportation Research Board Staff
Stephen R. Godwin, Director, Studies and Special Programs
Jill Wilson, Study Director
Mark S. Hutchins, Program Officer
Amelia Mathis, Administrative Assistant
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Section 608 of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (P.L. 112-95) required the National Academy of Sciences to study “the air traffic controller standards used by the [FAA] to estimate staffing needs for FAA air traffic controllers to ensure the safe operation of the national airspace system [NAS] in the most cost effective manner.” The project “shall consult with the exclusive bargaining representative of employees of the FAA certified under section 7111 of title 5, United States Code, and other interested parties, including Government and industry representatives.” The complete study charge is provided in more detail in Chapter 1.
In addition to the present study, the act tasked the National Research Council (NRC) with conducting two further studies related to the NAS:
1. An examination of the assumptions and methods that FAA uses in estimating the number of airway transportation system specialists needed to maintain and certify the equipment in the NAS, and
2. An examination of the Next Generation Air Transportation System’s enterprise software development approach and safety and human factor design.
A report on the first item (NRC 2013) and a preliminary report on the second item (NRC 2014) have been issued.
The request for the present study originates in the National Air Traffic Controllers Association’s (NATCA’s) interest in having a robust, science-based method for determining the appropriate staffing at individual air traffic control (ATC) facilities. FAA’s estimates show many facilities staffed at levels at or above the high end of their estimated staffing range, even though some such facilities require mandatory overtime to manage traffic adequately. NATCA had urged Congress to adopt a requirement for a third-party assessment of appropriate staffing at individual facilities. However, after consultation with congressional staff, the request that emerged from the House–Senate conference focused on the appropriateness of FAA’s overall staffing forecast and the most cost-effective approach to staffing that does not compromise safety.
This study examines the methods used by FAA to estimate how many controllers are needed to staff its ATC facilities and the processes used to staff facilities consistent with these estimates. The committee’s investigation of FAA’s staffing process was complicated by the lack of adequate documentation of much of this process. The committee was heavily dependent on FAA to provide details of its staffing process through in-person briefings, teleconferences, and email correspondence. In a number of instances, FAA staff members were asked to check the accuracy of the committee’s factual summaries of what it learned. Thus, the report includes a large number of personal communications (teleconferences with FAA staff, small group meetings at FAA, and questions answered through e-mail) rather than references to published papers, conference proceedings, and the like.
As used throughout the report, the term “staffing standards” is defined narrowly by FAA to mean mathematical models used to relate controller workload and air traffic activity. Hence, these staffing standards, sometimes referred to as staffing models, constitute only one part of the larger process whereby FAA determines air traffic controller staffing levels. Consistent with
clarification and guidance from congressional staff, the committee took a broader approach and considered the processes that FAA uses to model the number of controllers it needs and to adjust the modeled output on the basis of the judgment of facility managers and others, as well as the numbers of controllers actually added to the workforce and transferred among facilities.
Appointed by NRC, the study committee consists of 12 academicians, consultants, and current and retired air traffic controllers. Members have expertise in ATC and management, human factors, aviation safety, fatigue and sleep research, workforce planning, staffing models, aviation demand and management, public policy, economics, and budgeting. Biographical information concerning the committee members appears at the end of the report.
The full committee met five times between January 2013 and January 2014; at these meetings, it received briefings from FAA and other organizations, including Airlines for America (A4A), Airservices Australia, and the United Kingdom’s National Air Traffic Services (NATS). Over the same period, small groups of committee members also met (in person or by teleconference) with FAA staff on more than 20 occasions to discuss details of the agency’s controller staffing process. Despite these efforts to gather information from FAA, the committee had difficulty in obtaining clear and consistent descriptions of the staffing process and in establishing that the process steps are applied consistently.
As part of the committee’s information-gathering activities, members visited several of FAA’s ATC facilities (the Atlanta, Potomac, and Seattle Terminal Radar Approach Control facilities and the Atlanta Center), as well as the Delta Air Lines Operations Center in Atlanta. A committee subgroup met with representatives of the National Transportation Safety Board to discuss controller fatigue issues. To help inform comparisons between controller staffing processes used by FAA and by organizations in other countries, the committee obtained white papers from air navigation service providers (ANSPs) in Australia, Canada, Germany, and the United Kingdom describing their approaches to controller workforce planning. As part of this benchmarking effort, a subgroup of the committee held a conference call with Ralph Riedle, former Managing Director of Operations at Deutsche Flugsicherung (DFS) in Germany.
The committee thanks the many organizations and individuals that contributed to the study through formal presentations, correspondence, telephone calls, and informal discussions. The participation of the following individuals in the committee’s information-gathering activities is gratefully acknowledged: Rich McCormick, Tim Arel, Heather Biblow, Steve Bradford, Glen Buchanan, Gene Burdick, David Burkholder, Carl Burrus, Arthur Furnia, Todd Hoot, Rick Huss, Gretchen Koch-Noble, Stephen Lloyd, Darendia McCauley, Mike McCormick, Elliott McLaughlin, Finlay Mungall, Lynn Ray, Roger Schaufele, Nan Shellabarger, Joseph Teixeira, Dan Williams, and Mike Williams, FAA; Eugene Freedman, Dean Iacopelli, and Jeff Richards, NATCA; Greg Tennille, MITRE Corporation; Frank Danielski and Matthew Hampton, U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General; Dan Allen, FedEx (member, A4A ATC Council); Kevin Brathwaite and Richard McCormack, Grant Thornton; Jessica Clevenger, Georgia Institute of Technology; Kate Bleckley, Dana Broach, Cristina Byrne, Jerry Crutchfield, Linda Pierce, and Kevin Williams, Civil Aerospace Medical Institute; Kelly Krokos, American Institutes for Research; Ralph Riedle, DFS (retired); and Dan Bartlett, National Transportation Safety Board.
The committee thanks all those who organized and hosted its visits to FAA’s ATC facilities and to the Delta Air Lines Operations Center. Thanks go also to the authors of the ANSP white papers—Jason Harfield and Rodd Sciortino of Airservices Australia, Sid Koslow of Nav Canada, Nanda Hoefel of DFS, and Jonathan Astill and colleagues of NATS. The committee is particularly grateful to Messrs. Harfield, Sciortino, and Astill, who gave generously of their time in traveling to and participating in the third committee meeting in July 2013 and responding to follow-up questions.
This study was performed under the overall supervision of Stephen R. Godwin, Director, Studies and Special Programs, Transportation Research Board. The committee gratefully acknowledges the work and support of Jill Wilson, study director, and Mark S. Hutchins in facilitating information-gathering activities and assisting the committee in the preparation of its report. The committee also acknowledges Karen Febey, who managed the review process; Norman Solomon, who edited the report; Juanita Green, who managed the production; Jennifer J. Weeks, who prepared the manuscript for prepublication web posting; and Javy Awan, Director of Publications, under whose supervision the report was prepared for publication. Thanks go to Amelia Mathis for arranging meetings and providing administrative support to the committee.
This report was reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by NRC’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. The committee thanks the following individuals for their review of this report: Colin Drury, State University of New York (emeritus), Buffalo; Antonio Elias, Orbital Sciences Corporation, Dulles, Virginia; John Fischer, Congressional Research Service (retired), Washington, D.C.; Mark Hansen, University of California, Berkeley; Mark Harrison, University of California, Los Angeles; Paul Hogan, Lewin Group, Fairfax, Virginia; Melissa Mallis, M3Alertness Management, LLC, Courtdale, Pennsylvania; Michael Powderly, Airspace Solutions, Marietta, Georgia; and John Strong, College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia. Although these reviewers provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the committee’s findings or recommendations, nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review was overseen by National Academy of Sciences members Charles Manski, Northwestern University, and Susan Hanson, Clark University (emerita). Appointed by NRC, they were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.
—Amy R. Pritchett, Chair
Committee for a Study of
FAA Air Traffic Controller Staffing
|NRC||National Research Council|
NRC. 2013. Assessment of Staffing Needs of Systems Specialists in Aviation. National Academies, Washington, D.C.
NRC. 2014. Interim Report of a Review of the Next Generation Air Transportation System Enterprise Architecture, Software, Safety, and Human Factors. National Academies, Washington, D.C.
Acronyms and Abbreviations
Acronyms and abbreviations used in the report are listed below.
|A4A||Airlines for America|
|AATF||Airport and Airway Trust Fund|
|AIP||Airport Improvement Program|
|AIR21||Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century|
|ALA||Office of Labor Analysis|
|ANSP||air navigation service provider|
|ARTCC||air route traffic control center|
|ASIAS||Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing System|
|ASRS||Aviation Safety Reporting System|
|ATADS||Air Traffic Activity Data System|
|ATC||air traffic control|
|ATCT||airport traffic control tower|
|ATO||Air Traffic Organization|
|ATSAP||Air Traffic Safety Action Program|
|BTS||Bureau of Transportation Statistics|
|CAMI||Civil Aerospace Medical Institute|
|CANSO||Civil Air Navigation Services Organization|
|CBO||Congressional Budget Office|
|CEW||controller equivalent workforce|
|CFR||Code of Federal Regulations|
|CPC||certified professional controller|
|CPC-IT||certified professional controller in training|
|CWP||controller workforce plan|
|DSFM||daily staffing forecast model|
|DSR||daily staffing requirements|
|ERAM||En Route Automation Modernization|
|ERR||employee request for reassignment|
|EVT||En Route Validation Tool|
|FAA||Federal Aviation Administration|
|FAR||Federal Aviation Regulations|
|FCT||Federal Contract Tower Program|
|FFT||field focus team|
|FRMS||Fatigue Risk Management System|
|GAO||Government Accountability Office|
|GOMS||goals, operators, methods, and selection rules|
|ICAO||International Civil Aviation Organization|
|IFR||instrument flight rules|
|NAS||National Airspace System|
|NASA||National Aeronautics and Space Administration|
|NATCA||National Air Traffic Controllers Association|
|NATS||National Air Traffic Services|
|NextGen||Next Generation Air Transportation System|
|NRC||National Research Council|
|NTSB||National Transportation Safety Board|
|OIG||Office of the Inspector General|
|OMB||Office of Management and Budget|
|OPAS||Operational Planning and Scheduling|
|OPD||optimized profile descent|
|PATCO||Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization|
|PTT||positions to traffic|
|REDAC||Research, Engineering, and Development Advisory Committee|
|SCM||shift coverage model|
|SMS||safety management system|
|SUI||service unit input|
|TAF||Terminal Area Forecasts|
|TAF-M||Terminal Area Forecast Modernization|
|TARP||Traffic Analysis and Review Program|
|TRACON||terminal radar approach control|
|TRB||Transportation Research Board|
|TVT||Terminal Validation Tool|
|UAS||unmanned aircraft systems|
|USDOD||United States Department of Defense|
|USDOT||United States Department of Transportation|
|VFR||visual flight rules|
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