FAA Launches Hiring Push For 4,300 Air Traffic Controllers By 2026

The Federal Aviation Administration’s application window to become an air traffic controller opened yesterday and will run until August 2nd. With this opening, the FAA highlighted that it is looking to take on over 4,300 controllers over the next five years.

Delta LAX
The FAA plans to keep filling up control towers and other air traffic facilities over the next half a decade. Photo: Getty Images

A sizeable workforce

The FAA’s controller workforce reached 14,242 employees last year, with 920 new controllers joining. Amid the responsibility to ensure the safe, orderly, and efficient movement of air traffic through US airspace, each of these individuals would undoubtedly have gone through robust vetting and training to fill their boots.

Generally, there are three types of controllers. These are split by approach and departure, tower, and en route.

New Air Traffic Control Specialists (ATCS) will spend their first weeks of employment in a training program at the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City. There, they will be on a temporary appointment while they receive basic training. Those that succeed in the initial training program and meet other requirements will go on to receive a permanent position at an FAA facility.

Notably, a basic salary for this starting position will be $41,101 plus applicable locality pay “based on facility assignment.” Pay will also increase progressively during different training phases at the controller’s facility.

Air traffic control
Certified controllers can take home up to six figures a year while receiving generous federal benefits. Photo: Getty Images

Encouraging applications

Ahead of the application window, the FAA launched a campaign to encourage women, minorities, and those from underrepresented communities to apply. As part of the campaign, the agency engaged with diverse groups and launched a digital toolkit to help get the word out.

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson shared the following about the importance of the initiative in a statement:

“Having individuals with diverse backgrounds helps us find ways to continue enhancing aviation safety and efficiency. I hope more people will pursue the opportunity to become an air traffic controller as a result of this effort.”

Meanwhile, Teri L. Bristol, the chief operating officer of the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization, stated the following about the job role:

“Being an air traffic controller is not only important, but it’s also an interesting and dynamic career. Air travelers and the public rely on these safety professionals to oversee thousands of aircraft that travel in our national airspace system every day.”

Stay informed: Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.

New York JFK Tower Getty
The FAA is keen to diversify its applicants. Photo: Getty Images

Industry transitions

Altogether, the US aviation industry is bouncing back strongly following over a year of downturn amid the pandemic. With passenger activity on the right path, the country will need to ensure it has enough controllers to meet demand this decade. Overall pre-pandemic levels aren’t expected to return until at least 2023. However, after this, a rise in activity is expected. With a mandatory retirement age of 56, there is always the need for new controllers.

What are your thoughts about the FAA’s target to hire 4,300 air traffic controllers by 2026? What do you make of these goals? Let us know what you think of the initiatives in the comment section.