Under CSRS/CSRS Offset, after 20 years of controller service, there is a guaranteed retirement benefit which is 50 percent of high-3 average pay. For any air traffic controller retiring after 25 years, it works out to earning 2 percent per year. After 27 years, the guarantee provides no more than the regular formula would have. Other than the guaranteed benefit and mandatory retirement, there are no special CSRS rules for controllers. However, there is no reduction for being under age 55 at retirement, a provision that rarely is a consideration now since CSRS was closed to new entrants after 1983.


Although FERS has the same rules as CSRS for when a controller can retire, FERS doesn’t have a guaranteed benefit. Instead, it provides the same special benefits that are provided to law enforcement and firefighting personnel.

This is the formula:

  • 1.7% of high-3 average pay multiplied by 20 years of service
  • plus 1% of high-3 average pay multiplied by any years of service above 20

Some FERS controllers are eligible to retire under either of two sections of the law governing retirement of individuals with qualifying service as an ATC.  One is under 5 USC 8412(e), which is the regular ATC calculation listed above; the other is under 5 USC 8412(a), which OPM refers to as ATC MRA+30. If a retiring employee is eligible under both, OPM will offer the choice between these two calculations along with an explanation of how each would be calculated and the individual will make the election within 30 days of receipt of the letter.  Once the retirement has been finalized, the election becomes irrevocable.