Daily Data: Too few air traffic controllers is making controllers very upset
Air Traffic Controllers are at their wits end, but the fun is just getting started.
Everything reads better in your browser or in the app. The footnotes especially, and Random Walk is really leaning into the footnotes. Plus, if you have the app, you can set delivery to “app only” and then my daily barrage will feel less like a barrage. Unfortunately, substack does not yet have a “Weekly Digest” option, but I’m hectoring them aplenty.
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The FAA is in the news this week, regarding something that Random Walk has written about before: the shortage of air traffic controllers. They are apparently under a lot of stress, and are worried that bad things are going to happen.
It’s a job that involves a high cognitive load, despite being somewhat low-status (relative to other “smart person” jobs), and we don’t have as many controllers as we used to, despite a steady increase in air traffic that needs controlling.
The number of controllers has been in fairly steady decline:
There was a slight increase right at the beginning of the pandemic (likely due to efforts that began before the pandemic), which then probably lost steam when the pandemic began, due in part to the FAA’s decision to basically stop training.1
We’ve been flying steadily more since the GFC:
So, more flying, and fewer controllers.
It would seem like the controllers have good reason to be stressed out.
And perhaps they do, but if you dig a little closer, there’s something a bit unusual.