WASHINGTON, D.C. – May 12, 2008 – On Friday, 33 members of the U.S. Senate sent a letter to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Acting Administrator Robert Sturgell questioning the inadequate staffing levels of the FAA technical workforce. The letter validates numerous and repeated concerns about technical staffing raised by the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (PASS), AFL-CIO, the union that represents 11,000 employees at the FAA including technicians who install, maintain and certify systems and equipment in the National Airspace System (NAS).
The number of FAA technicians has fallen below 6,100, which was the figure previously agreed upon by PASS and the FAA as being the minimum number of technicians needed to maintain the system safely. Some facilities are staffed at less than half of what the facility’s workload generates, making daily operations difficult and resulting in more unplanned outages and longer restoration times. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), there has been an increase in unscheduled outages from an average of 21 hours in 2001 to about 40 hours in 2006. Despite falling below the minimum number of technicians, the FAA has not requested additional staffing in its proposed budget for FY 2009. “Inadequate staffing is resulting in more outages, longer recovery times, mounting delays for air travelers and a decreased safety margin,” said PASS President Tom Brantley. “PASS has repeatedly warned the FAA about technical staffing levels, but the FAA has failed to address PASS’s concerns.”
Senate lawmakers requested that the FAA immediately take steps to increase technician staffing to 6,100, at a minimum, and provide a specific plan for ensuring that there is an adequate level of technician staffing throughout the year to ensure a safe and reliable aviation system. The Senate letter states that “maintaining an adequate level of trained FAA technicians is critical to protecting the safety of this country’s aviation system. Every day that the FAA operates with an inadequate number of technicians, the flying American public faces greater risk. Yet insufficient staffing continues to be a major problem at numerous facilities throughout the country.”
“Technician staffing is in critical need of attention, but as we have seen in recent weeks the FAA only takes action when backed into a corner,” said Brantley. “PASS is hopeful that the recognition and requested action by Senate lawmakers will force the FAA to immediately rectify this situation.”
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) took the lead on the effort to call attention to this important issue. PASS would like to thank Senator Kerry and the 32 other senators who signed the letter: Sens. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Joseph Biden (D-Del.), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.), Robert Casey (D-Penn.), Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Herbert Kohl (D-Wis.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Barack Obama (D-Ill.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Ken Salazar (D-Colo.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), James Webb (D-Va.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
PASS represents more than 11,000 employees of the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Defense who install, maintain, support and certify air traffic control and national defense equipment, inspect and oversee the commercial and general aviation industries, develop flight procedures and perform quality analyses of the aviation systems. For more information, visit the PASS website at www.passnational.org.