The Federal Aviation Administration announced that it faces a major personnel crisis, estimating that nearly half of the air traffic controllers will retire by 2012. Lawmakers think the problem is actually worse than this! What’s the solution? The FAA believes that it needs to start hiring now. Granted the training process could take up to seven years (generally between 1 and 2 years) for new hires. Just last year lawmakers considered opening up some air traffic controller and specialist positions to competition – allowing private firms handle operations would help ease the staffing crunch, provide more flexibility within the FAA and save valuable tax dollars. Its worth noting that private controllers have better safety records and already operate at numerous airports around the country – including Crawford, TX where the President’s plane lands. However, NACTA and NAATS (the unions representing controllers and specialists) fought competition hard. NAATS even hired a powerful lobbyist, with good connections I might add, to fight competition in the future. Reason’s own Bob Poole has written countless articles on the topic, you can access the entire body of work here. Bob tells me that there are signs of more competition to come. Given the human capital shortage, competition is just what the FAA needs.