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June 10, 2008

DOT Inspector General Finds FAA Air Traffic Controller Training Program Needs Improvement

On June 5, 2008, the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General issued a fifty-one page Memorandum containing the results of its review of the FAA air traffic controller training program. The OIG's objectives in reviewing the program were to "(1) assess the adequacy of FAA’s plans to effectively train an increasing number of new controllers at the facility level and (2) determine FAA’s progress in implementing key initiatives for reducing facility training time and costs."

The OIG's results indicate "that FAA’s facility training program continues to be extremely decentralized and the efficiency and quality of the training varies extensively from one location to another." Interestingly, the OIG found these same types of problems when it reviewed the program back in 2004. Based upon the results of its review, the OIG recommended twelve actions for the FAA to take in order to successfully achieve its plans to hire and train 17,000 new controllers through 2017. Those actions are:

1. Convene a working group that includes facility managers, training managers, and union representatives to identify a target percentage or percentage range of developmental controllers that facilities (by facility type—both en route and terminal) can realistically accommodate while accomplishing facility training and daily operations.

2. Include in the next update to the Controller Workforce Plan the actual number of CPCs, CPC-ITs, and developmental controllers by location to provide stakeholders with an accurate picture of the current composition of the controller workforce.

3. Establish a method for placing newly hired controllers at facilities that considers the availability of OJT instructors, classroom space, and simulators as well as training requirements of existing CPC staff.

4. Include the initial results of the Agency’s new controller retention bonuses in the 2009 update of the Controller Workforce Plan.

5. Designate authority and responsibility for oversight and direction of the facility training program at the national level in the next update of FAA’s National Training Order 3120.4L, which is due this summer.

6. Develop a contingency plan for actions needed to ensure continuous training support during any change from the current WCG contract to any follow-on contract.

7. Issue written guidance requiring facility managers to establish OJT as a facility priority and only allow suspension of training for critical operational necessities.

8. Issue written guidance that holds managers accountable for achieving nominal “time-to-certify” metrics for en route and terminal training programs.

9. Establish procedures for ensuring the accuracy of data input into the national training database and use the database to identify trends (negative and positive) at individual facilities (en route and terminal) that could indicate training problems and take corrective actions as needed.

10. Establish additional methods for disseminating successful training methods used at individual facilities that could be applied at other locations (en route and terminal), such as an intranet website for facility training.

11. Conduct a comprehensive review of facility training as stated in the 2004 Controller Workforce Plan.

12. Ensure that the installation of additional simulators at terminal and en route facilities remains on schedule to capitalize on the significant success this type of training has demonstrated thus far.

Although the OIG Memorandum indicates that the FAA is already taking some of these actions, it looks like the FAA still has a long way to go...

Posted by Greg

June 04, 2008

Airmen Arguing Evidentiary Errors On Appeal To NTSB Must Show Prejudice

In a recent NTSB opinion, Administrator v. Lackey, anairman was charged with violations of FARs 91.7(a) (aircraft must be in an airworthy condition), 91.9(a) and (b)(1) (aircraft must be operated with flight manual and in conformity with operating limitations), 39.7 (failure to comply with airworthiness directive renders aircraft un-airworthy), and 91.13(a) (careless and reckless) arising from the airman's alleged operation of a Bell 206 helicopter when the aircraft was in an un-airworthy condition and was operated contrary to the aircraft's flight operating limitations and contrary to a special flight permit issued by the FAA for the flight. The FAA issued an order suspending the airman's commercial pilot certificate for 150 days based upon the alleged violations. The airman appealed and after a hearing the ALJ affirmed the FAA's order, but reduced the sanction from 150 days to 120 days. The airman then appealed the ALJ's decision to the full NTSB.

On appeal, the airman argued that the ALJ committed a number of evidentiary errors. Prior to addressing the airman's arguments, the Board first noted that evidentiary rulings are reviewed under an abuse of discretion standard and it will only entertain an arguments of evidentiary error when they amount to prejudicial error; that is, an error must have affected the outcome of the proceeding. The Board then reviewed the airman's arguments and determined that the airman had failed to show how any of the errors specifically prejudiced his case. As a result, the Board affirmed the ALJ's decision.

In my review of the Board's opinion, it appears that the airman asserted a number of good arguments. Unfortunately, he then failed to go the extra step to show how the errors affected his case or how his case might have been tried differently in the absence of the alleged errors. Without this additional showing of prejudice, the Board will not reverse an ALJ's decision based upon arguments of evidentiary error.

Posted by Greg

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