FAA’s changes to traffic controller hiring ‘puts the safety of our skies at risk’

FAA Trouble ImageThe Federal Aviation Administration has been under investigation over the past six months after it made changes to its hiring policies in order to promote diversity in its air traffic controller hiring. Many are now concerned that the changes in the requirements for air traffic controllers are not stringent enough, and can put those who travel via air at risk. The old requirements to become an air traffic controller required applicants to earn an FAA-accredited degree from a Collegiate Training Initiative (CTI) program through a two- or four-year university. Then, potential air traffic controllers were required to take a rigorous computer-based Air Traffic Selection and Training (AT-SAT) exam, an eight-hour test that included hands-on application problems, multi-tasking games and control scenarios that one could possibly encounter on the job. If the applicant received higher than an 85 score on the exam, he or she would be considered “well qualified” to become an air traffic controller and would be likely to be hired by the FAA. (A 100 is the highest possible score.) The FAA changed its hiring policies on Dec. 30, 2013. The new hiring practices allow “off the street hires” where the only requirements to apply for a job as an air traffic controller are to be an English-speaking U.S. citizen with a high school diploma, and to pass the FAA’s new exam, the Biographical Questionnaire (BQ), which replaced the AT-SAT exam. Unlike the AT-SAT, the BQ appears to focus more on the diversity of the applicants. The BQ allegedly has nothing to do with one’s ability to do the job well, and some of those who scored highly on the now-defunct AT-SAT have failed the BQ, making them ineligible to work in air control towers. Meanwhile, the FAA also disqualified the applications, degrees and hands-on experience of more than 3000 job applicants that were qualified under the AT-SAT to become air traffic controllers before the Dec. 30 cutoff. “[T]he FAA’s lack of transparency and disturbing agenda puts the safety of our skies at risk,” said U.S. Rep Randy Hultgren. “It’s time to compel the FAA to come before Congress to answer for their actions.” In addition, potential controllers have a two-week time frame in which to complete the BQ at home on their personal computers, providing opportunities for the applicants to cheat in order to select the answers the FAA is looking for. Rep. Hultgren hopes to force the FAA to abandon the BQ and return to hiring qualified, degreed candidates that can score highly on the AT-SAT. Hultgren is a co-sponsor of the Air Traffic Controllers Hiring Act of 2015; among other objectives, the Act will allow the 3000 applicants that were disqualified under the BQ to re-apply for jobs with the FAA. The FAA stands by the changes to the exam and hiring processes, despite data showing that the old program saved the FAA significant amounts of money in training programs and apprenticeships, as CTI-trained applicants were able to complete training faster and receive higher certifications. photo credit: Airplane at LAX via photopin (license)]]>

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