FAA achieves 1,500 Air Traffic Controller hiring goal

An Air Traffic Controller in control tower.
Photo Credit: FAA
Len Varley - Assistant Editor 3 Min Read
3 Min Read

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has achieved its goal of hiring 1,500 air traffic controllers in 2023, an accomplishment crucial for rebuilding its training pipeline.

Presently, approximately 2,600 trainee controllers are undergoing training at various facilities across the nation. These trainees often hold certification for certain air traffic positions while continuing their training for others.

Tim Arel, the Chief Operating Officer of the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization, emphasized the significance of this achievement as a post-pandemic milestone. However, he also noted that further efforts are necessary, with further expansion on the horizon.

“This is an important milestone as we come out of the pandemic, but there is more work to do. We plan to hire 1,800 controllers in the upcoming year provided we receive the funding,” Arel said.

The ATC training process

As part of their career initiation, new controllers embark on their journey at the FAA’s academy in Oklahoma City. After graduating from the academy, they are assigned to one of the FAA’s numerous air traffic facilities.

Here, they undergo training to attain certification for specific airspace positions, such as Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) or en route center. The duration of certification varies between 18 to 24 months, contingent on the complexity of the airspace.


At present, around 2,600 controllers are progressing through different phases of training. Many among them had already acquired certification for airspace positions at previous facilities before relocating to new ones.

Others are academy graduates working towards obtaining certification for all positions at their current location.

Similar to the certification process for many highly specialized professions, becoming an air traffic controller involves intensive training. Success is not guaranteed for everyone who enters the application and training process.

Air Traffic Controllers in airport control tower
Photo Credit: FAA

1,800 further hirings proposed

The FAA’s FY24 budget proposal includes a request for funding that would facilitate the hiring of an additional 1,800 controllers. During the FAA’s BeATC campaign earlier this year, over 12,000 individuals applied to become air traffic controllers.

Candidates who meet the basic requirements undergo the Air Traffic Skills Assessment exam, with high achievers receiving invitations to attend the FAA’s academy.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the FAA had to temporarily close its academy for a period of six months in 2020 and halt on-the-job training at facilities for almost two years.

Interested potential applicants can sign up for hiring updates and learn more about the job, eligibility and other air traffic control facts at the FAA BeATC webpage. 

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