Too Few Air Traffic Controllers in the Tower

February 4, 2016

A 2014 FAA review concluded that Chicago O'Hare Airport's TRACON* should be staffed with a no less than 53 certified professional controllers (CPC). But a recent Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General Audit Report (released January 11, 2016) found that O'Hare's TRACON has been getting by with only 48 CPCs. And of those 48 air traffic controllers, 24 of them were eligible to retire at any time.  The staffing and training audit looked at 23 critical airports around the U.S. It concluded that:

. . . many of these facilities still have a clear shortage of fully trained controllers. Furthermore, FAA does not have the data or an effective model in place to fully and accurately identify how many controllers FAA needs to maintain efficiency without compromising safety.
— Dept. of Transportation Audit. January 2016

*The report looked at air traffic controllers in 3 different roles:

1. Air Traffic Control Centers guide airplanes flying at high altitude through large sections of airspace

2. TRACONs guide aircraft as they approach or leave airspace near a primary airport

3. Towers which house air traffic controllers who monitor all aircraft taxiing, taking off, and landing at that airport

Read the DOT OIG Audit Report