Chair of the Senate Commerce Aviation Subcommittee Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) said in an interview Friday the Federal Aviation Administration needs more air traffic controllers to meet rising passenger demand.
“We don’t have enough pilots. We don’t have enough maintenance people, and we don’t have enough air traffic controllers,” Duckworth told Reuters.
Her call comes as the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are investigating several recent close calls at America’s airports.
According to Duckworth, the FAA has been deciding how many air traffic controllers to employ based on its budget “versus the actual need in terms of the traffic demands.”
Noting that the U.S. has 1,200 fewer certified air traffic controllers than a decade ago, Rich Santa, union president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), has called on the FAA to boost staffing.
The airlines have also called on the feds for more funding for air traffic controllers.
Last week, the Department of Transportation said it was seeking $117 million to hire 1,800 air traffic controllers next year on top of some 1,500 already being hired this year.
Santa said a permanent fix was needed, along with a new staffing model. Duckworth, though, said the FAA and NATCA should get together and do a “thorough study,” then come to an agreement on required staffing levels.
Separate from Duckworth’s call, Senate Commerce Chair Maria Cantwell (D-WA) on Wednesday called on the FAA to take action on previous NTSB recommendations.
“We have to have the highest safety standards, and we have to have the investment in modern equipment that is going to give us those safety standards,” Cantwell said.