US controller productivity under scrutiny

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(AIR TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT. net).- A US aviation watchdog plans to launch a probe this month to examine the productivity of the nation's air traffic controller workforce.

The Office of Inspector General said it would initiate an audit on the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) efforts to improve the productivity of its controllers.

"[The] FAA has introduced a series of initiatives intended to increase controller productivity and reduce operating costs, such as matching controller staffing to facility workload and reducing overtime costs," said OIG assistant inspector general Jeff Guzzetti. "Our audit objective is to determine whether FAA's controller productivity initiatives are achieving their expected benefits and will result in cost savings to the Agency."

He said the number of US controllers has increased slightly as flight operations have declined 23 per cent since 2000, "raising questions about the efficiency of the FAA's current workforce".

The inspector general's office, which oversees the FAA, said it was responding to a request from Republican representatives John Mica of Florida and Thomas Petri of Wisconsin to assess the estimated cost savings from improved controller productivity. Mica and Petri are the outgoing chairmen of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and its subcommittee on aviation, respectively.

"As many as two-thirds of the FAA's air traffic control facilities are currently over-staffed," Mica and Petri said in a letter to the inspector general's office.

According to a November Bloomberg report, more than 100 US towers and radar rooms have so few flights that they should be shut down late at night under the FAA's guidelines, a move that would save taxpayers $10 million a year.

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