The Association of Collegiate Institutions (ACTI) is pleased to announce the passage of the Air Traffic Controller Hiring Reform Act of 2019, which was incorporated into the National Defense Reauthorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020. This new law, signed by President Trump, grants significant benefits for students of Collegiate Training Institutions (CTI) and veterans when applying for Air Traffic Control Specialist (ATCS) positions with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The changes were supported by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.
The law requires that the FAA give hiring preference to graduates of FAA approved CTI institutions. This means that the FAA must refer CTI graduates within a particular employment exam score group prior to referring an off the street (OTS) candidate. This statutory preference replaces the previous requirement that the FAA refer no more than approximately fifty percent CTI and fifty percent OTS.
This new requirement helps ensure that the most qualified individuals are entering the air traffic control workforce. It also allows students that score well enough on employment entrance exams to be hired instead of being passed over by OTS candidates.
The FAA must also provide Congress with attrition and success rates, broken out based on hiring source (CTI vs OTS) on a regular basis. While the FAA previously reported these metrics frequently, it discontinued to after the drastic changes to the hiring process made in 2014. These metrics will allow Congress, and the public, to evaluate the benefits which CTI students provide the flying public and taxpayers. Previous FAA reports demonstrate that CTI students have a higher chance of succeeding in training.
The new hiring law also requires the Department of Transportation Office of the Inspector General to conduct a review and make recommendations to improve FAA pre-employment testing. This will allow the public to identify whether these exams the agency uses are job-relevant. The law requires that National Guard Air Traffic Controllers be treated equally like all other Department of Defense ATC’s when applying for positions with the FAA.
Since the 2014 changes to the hiring process, ACTI has worked with Congress and the courts to check the FAA’s actions and hold the agency accountable. ACTI advocated for CTI students after the FAA’s implementation of the Biographical Assessment. These efforts resulted in Congress banning the use of the controversial exam and providing age waivers for students disqualified by the 2014 exam who were otherwise qualified for the bid up until December 31, 2017 to re-apply regardless of age. In 2018, the scoring key to the 2014 exam was released as a result of litigation, and following that, the FAA was forced to discontinue the use of the exam all together as a result of the public outrage.
ACTI continues to advocate for CTI students and will monitor the agency’s compliance with this new law. Although the passage of this law provides CTI students with more benefits, ACTI will continue to work to remedy the actions the FAA took that impacted thousands of CTI students. ACTI looks forward to working with the Federal Aviation Administration in the implementation of this law, and work together with the agency to provide the nation with the best-qualified air traffic controllers.