Staff levels considered as air-traffic controllers hit retirement

CLEVELAND - More than 25 percent of the nation's air-traffic controllers will reach retirement age by the end of next year.

Union officials worry that their replacements cannot be adequately trained in time, but the FAA insists replacements will be ready.

Controllers are eligible to retire at 50 or after serving 25 years. They face mandatory retirement at 56.

About 50 controllers from the 440-member staff at the Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center in Oberlin could retire by December -- and 43 more by the end of 2007.

The Oberlin Center controls about 3 million aircraft a year flying over portions of Ohio, Michigan, New York, West Virginia, Indiana, Maryland and Canada.

The FAA rejects the notion that people who are eligible to retire will leave.

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