The Federal Aviation Administration inspector general will audit hiring and staffing difficulties at the federal department of transportation after Southwest Airlines blamed mass cancellations over the weekend on a shortage of air traffic controllers.
Matthew Hampton, assistant inspector general for aviation audits, issued a memo on Monday announcing the audit which he said would assist FAA's efforts to keep air traffic control fully staffed and continue training new hires amid COVID - 19 pandemic.
Since the pandemic started, controllers of numerous air traffic control facilities tested positive for COVID - 19, leading to partial shutdowns of towers and radar control facilities and impacting staffing and training operations, the memo said. Moreover, with veteran controllers leaving for various reasons, including retirements, and increased training demands, FAA faces the challenge of ensuring it has the required number of controllers. IG reports in 2012 and 2016 documented ongoing staffing challenges, the memo said. The 2016 audit concluded the FAA had not yet established an effective process for balancing training requirements with anticipated retirements. Southwest Airlines blamed the thousands of cancelled flights on a personnel shortage, but the FAA has denied there being any shortages since Friday when it admits that there have been a few hours of delays due in part to handling of air traffic.
The airline industry expert Arthur Wheaton of Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations said the US DOT audit had been long coming.
Air traffic control system is woefully out of date. Wheaton hasn t really invested in that system for years, said it. There have been problems with our skies that has too many aircraft and not enough computer capacity to route them for 40 years. It makes it more dangerous and more difficult to manage. Southwest, its union and the FAA all denied any connections between the weekend chaos and President Biden's coming COVID - 19 vaccine requirement for airline employees.
The CEO of the airline s CNBC said on Tuesday that his airline had set itself back significantly on Friday. After you get behind, it takes several days to catch up said Gary Kelly.