The Federal Aviation Administration has hired 1,500 air traffic controllers and met its 2023 goal needed to continue rebuilding its training pipeline. The agency also has approximately 2,600 controllers being trained at facilities across the country. Many of these controllers are already certified to safely work some air traffic positions as they continue training on others.

“This is an important milestone as we come out of the pandemic, but there is more work to do,” said Tim Arel, chief operating officer of the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization. “We plan to hire 1,800 controllers in the upcoming year provided we receive the funding.”

New controllers start their career journey at FAA’s academy in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. After graduating, they relocate to one of the FAA’s hundreds of air traffic facilities. There they begin training to become certified on specific airspace positions for that facility, Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) or en route center. Certification varies from 18 to 24 months depending on the airspace complexity.

Today, there are around 2,600 controllers that are in various stages of training. Many of them were certified on the airspace for a previous facility but have relocated to another facility. Others are graduates of the academy working toward certification on all the positions where they are located.

The President’s FY24 budget requests funding to enable the FAA to hire 1,800 additional controllers. More than 12,000 individuals applied to be an air traffic controller earlier this year during the FAA’s BeATC campaign. Those that meet the basic qualifications then take the Air Traffic Skills Assessment exam. High scorers are invited to attend the FAA’s academy.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the FAA to close its academy for six months in 2020 and pause on-the-job training at facilities for almost two years.