GAO Review Reveals Inexperienced Flight Controllers

A federal review has found one of Houston's airports has the least experienced staff of air traffic controllers in the whole country. City aviation officials say there's no reason for concern, as Jim Bell reports.
The review by the General Accounting Office found that only 56 percent of the air traffic controllers at Houston's Hobby Airport are fully certified. That's the lowest percentage of all the airports surveyed. The report says many controllers are recent hires with little training, but Houston Aviation Department spokeswoman Marlene McClinton says they wouldn't be working in air traffic control centers if they weren't qualified. McClinton also says this is something the City Aviation Department has no control over.

"You know it's kind of outside the purview of the airport, in that we have absolutely no influence in this area. This is truly a federal government function. And so what is contained in that report, if that is an issue, we would expect the federal government to deal with it and handle it."

The FAA says it's having trouble hiring new controllers, in part because the military is offering big re-enlistment bonuses that are keeping many military controllers out of the civilian job market. The agency is also having problems developing training for new hires and experienced controllers as the next generation of air traffic control systems develops and comes on line.

Jim Bell, KUHF, Houston Public Radio News.