The Obama FAA grounded qualified candidates in the name of justice. Why isn’t Trump moving to reverse?
Andrew Brigida is the son of a former New York City police officer. When he was 12, his family moved to a suburb of Phoenix, and at the urging of a neighbor he decided to become an air-traffic controller. In 2013 he graduated with two aviation-related bachelor’s degrees from Arizona State University, one of the dozens of schools with which the Federal Aviation Administration has partnerships to vet candidates for its air-traffic-control training program.
Graduates of these Collegiate Training Initiative schools then must pass the Air Traffic Selection and Training exam, or AT-SAT. This eight-hour test is designed to assess numeric ability, tolerance for high-intensity work, capacity for solving problems, and so forth. The goal is to determine their likelihood of completing the requisite training to become an air-traffic controller. Training a controller is expensive—on average it costs more than $400,000—and the CTI system has proved an accurate predictor of who’s got what it takes.
Mr. Brigida completed the college program, aced the AT-SAT and received a strong recommendation from an academic adviser. He was then placed on a list with other prospective controllers, who would be sent to Oklahoma City for the mandated 15 weeks of training. Five years later, Mr. Brigida still is not working as an air-traffic controller. What happened is the Obama administration.
In 2013 the Obama FAA changed the process for hiring controllers and then applied the new policy retroactively. No longer would the FAA give hiring preference to applicants with degrees from CTI schools or military experience, as it had in the past. In order to foster “diversity” in control towers, the agency would move away from merit-based hiring and toward more subjective measures. To attract a higher percentage of candidates from racial and ethnic minorities, a “biographical questionnaire,” or BQ, was added to the screening process. Applicants were asked about their upbringing, family hardship and the like. Those who didn’t score well enough on the BQ were deemed ineligible, regardless of how well they had performed on tests measuring cognitive skills.