New FAA rules raise concerns over air traffic controller qualifications, KSN

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KSN is looking into new air traffic controller requirements, mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration, to see if they could be making matters better or worse, especially as several reports are pouring in about near-misses, airliner collisions, and close calls mid-air, at airports across the United States.

Viewer, Andrew Eakin, 22, is a Kansas native who graduated from Arizona State University in May of 2014.

“Air traffic control… It’s been a life-long dream of mine to become a controller,” said Eakin. “I entered in good faith into the CTI program at ASU expecting that it was going be the method to ultimately achieve my goal.”

Eakin tells KSN that last-minute intervention by the FAA foiled his plans to become an air traffic controller, only months before graduation.

For more than 20 years, the FAA has worked closely with Collegiate Training Initiative, or CTI, schools across the country. There are 36 nationwide.

KSN reached out to the only CTI air traffic control program in the state of Kansas; Hesston College. We spoke with the Aviation Program Director, Dan Miller.

“Our commitment to the FAA is to provide a teachable student; someone that comes with the basic knowledge,” said Miller.

While graduating from a CTI school was not required, it often gave students the upper-hand.

“The new requirements for becoming an air traffic controller is anyone with a high school education, and three years or more of progressive work experience,” said Eakin.

Among the new requirements however, an online biographical assessment is getting the most attention. Eakin failed the assessment and was “disqualified for further consideration” in becoming an air traffic controller.

Eakin is one of many reported CTI students, graduates, and current air traffic controllers who have failed the assessment.

In February 2014, 28,000 people reportedly applied for air traffic controller jobs with the FAA. Of those, however, Eakin says only 8% passed the 62-question assessment.

Some industry experts argue it is about ‘diversity.’

“This questionnaire has questions that have seemingly no relevance to the successfulness [sic] of air traffic controllers,” said Eakin.

“Explanations were given as to the reason why the changes were coming, but they were very poorly constructed,” Miller told KSN. “They did not offer significant time to digest what was going on before it happened,” he continued.

“It left us [asking], ‘Where do we fit? How do we fit? How do we provide an educated potential employee to the FAA when we have really limited understanding of where they’re at from an agency standpoint?’ said Miller.

Miller told KSN there is no guarantee.

“Aviation is changing at a faster pace than what we can stay current with, though we try very hard,” said Miller. “The idea that you’re going to walk in to an air traffic role and be there for the next 25 years has its limitations.”

According to the FAA’s website, in order to become an air traffic controller, you must:
1. Be a citizen of the United States
2. Start at the FAA Academy no later than your 31st birthday
3. Pass a medical examination
4. Pass a security investigation
5. Have “three years of progressively responsible work experience, or a Bachelor’s degree, or a combination of post-secondary education and work experience” amounting to three years in total
6. Pass the FAA air traffic pre-employment tests
7. Speaking English clearly


To continue reading about careers in aviation with the Federal Aviation Administration, visit or click here.

For more information about the Association of Collegiate Training Institutions, click here.

New FAA rules raise concerns over air traffic controller qualifications

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