FAA recruits teenage air traffic controllers

The FAA, facing a severe shortage of air traffic controllers in the New York area, has reportedly begun offering $100,000 bonuses to existing trained controllers while recruiting at high schools and on popular websites like MySpace and craigslist. The bonus includes $27,000 to move to New York plus $75,000 spread out over four years. The move was spurred by an unexpectedly drastic number of retirements and also follows two near accidents in the air.

Naturally, the idea of recruiting teenagers for these high-pressure, high-stakes jobs has caused a bit of a stir. The New York Post reported the story this morning, with the rather attention-grabbing headline, "FAA Kids are In Control: Desperate Feds Wooing High-Schoolers." But before all-out panic ensues, it's important to note that it takes a full year and a half for controllers to be certified.

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Sensationalism aside, the real story here appears to be the shortage itself. The reality is that even with new hires, air traffic control will be short staffed for the foreseeable future. Barrett Byrnes, speaking for the air traffic controllers union, told the Post, "Bringing in over 30 people isn't a quick-fix solution. There's no guarantee anybody will check out and be certified." He also warned that enormous bonuses for rookies could anger experienced veterans.

It's no secret that this country's air traffic control system needs an overhaul (many of our readers told us all about it last year), so this recruiting push could put air traffic control on the right path. Let's hope the kids are alright.

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