One week ago today, the Government Accountability Office released a report that noted the Federal Aviation Administration's stepped-up efforts to hire new air traffic controllers, to compensate for "the projected departure of over 15,000 air traffic controllers between 2008 and 2017." Only one problem: Many of those newbies are winding up in air traffic control towers possessing relatively little experience -- and without being fully certified. Fact is, they're learning on the job. With real airplanes.
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The GAO study's only beginning to make news today. But it's big news nonetheless, because locally the GAO determined that of the 60 air traffic controllers who work Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport, only 37 of them are fully certified -- meaning, of course, the other 23 are trainees. There are only two airports that rank below DFW: La Guardia International Airport in New York, where 22 of the 36 air traffic controllers are fully certified, and William P. Hobby Airport in Houston, where 14 of the 25 are fully certified. Throughout the report, the GAO likes to describe the low number of fully certified controllers as "a challenge." The Fort Worth Star-Telegram says DFW's now more of a "training ground" for air traffic controllers. And, one more reason to fly. --Robert Wilonsky