Statement from FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker

Statement from FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker

Friday, April 19, 2024

In my first few months at the helm of the FAA, I toured air traffic control facilities around the country—and heard concerns about schedules that do not always allow controllers to get enough rest. With the safety of our controllers and national airspace always top of mind for FAA, I took this very seriously – and we’re taking action.  

In December 2023, we commissioned an independent panel of scientific fatigue experts to assess the risks introduced by controller fatigue in our system and to give us a roadmap to mitigate the risks. The panel’s report brought into focus key reforms which we’re implementing immediately to ensure air traffic controllers are getting sufficient rest, while we also work to implement some longer term, systemic changes. As an initial step, I will require 10 hours off between shifts, and 12 hours off before a midnight shift, effective in 90 days, consistent with the expert panel’s recommendations. I am also directing the Air Traffic Safety Oversight Service to ensure the agency has a robust methodology to ensure compliance with this direction. 

I understand this lengthened rest period will be an adjustment for thousands of our air traffic controllers. We are committed to engaging the workforce and our partners at the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) to prioritize health and well-being as operations adapt. 

In addition to scheduling practices, growing the workforce continues to be a top priority, and over the past two years we’ve pulled out all of the stops to accelerate hiring. We are beginning to reverse the decades-long shortage of air traffic controllers. Last year we reached our hiring goal of 1,500 controllers, with an even bigger goal of 1,800 this year, which we’re on track to meet. We’ve also expanded the training pipeline to maximize recruitment. Getting more qualified individuals into our air traffic facilities will help alleviate the demands on the current workforce.  

I appreciate the panel’s time and expertise, and we are committed to a sustained effort to address controller fatigue and ensure our airspace is the safest in the world. These recommendations will significantly aid our efforts, providing a roadmap for our agency. What’s more, as I always say, “safety is a team sport” so we’re making the report public to enable other safety and workforce experts to review the findings and share additional insights.  I look forward to working with our labor partners to implement these important changes. 

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