The FAA Air Traffic CTI partnership has been successfully serving the FAA for 24 years as the preferred source of controller hiring. It was created by the FAA to develop the next generation of controllers in the most cost-effective manner. This partnership is comprised of 36 colleges and universities that were carefully selected by the FAA to provide air traffic controller training with the intent of reducing training time and costs at the FAA Academy. The colleges bear the expense of purchasing simulators and developing curriculum and training facilities at zero cost to the FAA. Under this program, student names are tracked semester by semester by the FAA Aviation Careers Office to determine capacity and perform administrative tasks, such as scheduling students for the AT-SAT exam. Within one year of graduation (after the student has demonstrated the motivation and aptitude to complete the program), the AT-SAT exam is administered. After graduation, students “recommended” by the partner CTI colleges are entered into a direct-hire pool of applicantsfor FAA employment selection.
On December 30, 2013, the FAA announced it would no longer honor this agreement and CTI graduates would not enter a direct- hire pool or receive hiring preference. Instead, all applicants would be selected “Off the Street” (OTS) with no aviation experience necessary to apply. In addition, the AT-SAT would be modified to allow higher success rates among minorities. The reason used to justify these changes was to “improve depth and diversity in the controller workforce,” however a recent FAA study concluded that sufficient diversity already existed in the ranks of CTI students. In February, 2014, a hiring announcement was conducted by the FAA and applications were accepted online. A Biographical Questionnaire (BQ), based on personal attributes was administered to determine eligibility. Of the 28,000 people who applied, only 2,200 were deemed eligible by the BQ. Surveys by the CTI colleges showed that only a small number of graduates had been rated “eligible” by the BQ. Those that were not selected were among a group of highly qualified men and women who were veterans and minorities with outstanding grades, high AT-SAT scores, and a wealth of aviation experience. Those that were selected comprised a group of randomly picked applicants with little or no aviation background with a majority of their experience in retail and the fast food industry.
On March 13, 2014, Senator Patty Murray, (D-Washington State) questioned Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx on the results of the BQ – stating that she was very “concerned.” The video of this discussion may be viewed by clicking here or visiting Senator Murray’s website.
This hiring criterion was developed without any input from the CTI stakeholders, while the CTI colleges were repeatedly told by FAA officials that the CTI program would have an expanded role in an effort to reduce costs. As a result, many CTI colleges made large investments in training equipment and facilities.
The true victims are the college graduates who followed the instructions on the FAA website. This site-directed students to complete an approved CTI program in order to be eligible for hire. There are approximately 3,500 CTI graduates that are trained, tested, and ready to be hired now. Due to sequestration and the government shutdown, there has been no controller hiring for the past 1 ½ years. FAA air traffic control facilities are critically understaffed and need qualified controllers to replace those retiring.
The Association of Collegiate Training Institutions (ACTI) is a coalition of CTI partner colleges and universities. ACTI is joined by several air traffic control and other aviation organizations in believing that this move by FAA Human Resources is wrong and that it will negatively impact air traffic safety while dramatically increasing costs. If hiring preference is not restored to CTI program graduates, the CTI partnership will be in jeopardy and the FAA will not have the trained applicants it has enjoyed for 24 years.
Finally, in these safety critical positions, only the most qualified applicants should be selected to be air traffic controllers.
SAFETY – Why the FAA Should Hire the Best Qualified Candidates
- With safety being the FAA’s primary focus, shouldn’t the FAA hire the most qualified applicants for these extremely important safety sensitive positions in which the lives of so many depend?
- Air Traffic Control is a very demanding job and carries with it a great deal of responsibility; one mistake can kill hundreds of people or cause untold damage. Air Traffic Controllers are required to think and react quickly and decisively while communicating clearly and effectively. The “dumbing down” of standards and simplified AT-SAT exam will result in a less qualified pool of applicants.
- FAA facilities are now critically understaffed and there are 3,500 CTI graduates who are trained, AT-SAT tested, and ready to be hired immediately!
- Air Traffic Control is a profession; most professions require a college degree or some form of formal education.
COSTS – The CTI Program Represents the Best Value to the FAA
- The CTI Program has been successfully serving the FAA for over 24 years. It is the most cost-effective way to select and train highly qualified air traffic controllers.
- CTI colleges and universities offer air traffic controller training using leading-edge simulators and training facilities. Hiring Off The Street (OTS) candidates is inefficient and expensive from both a financial and an operational stand point*.
- OTS candidates will take longer to train and are more likely to be lost to attrition during training than a CTI graduate. OTS hires must take the 5-week AT-Basics course at the Academy; CTI graduates do not.
*This new hiring criteria will cost millions of dollars more, only to produce a less qualified workforce which will take longer to train. The FAA is already critically understaffed in many ATC facilities nationwide
ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS – College Students and Institutions were misled
- Part of the implied “contract” that the FAA has with CTI students guaranteed those students a priority in the application process. CTI students have invested tens of thousands of dollars in their CTI degrees with the expectation that they will have an advantage in the hiring process. The FAA reneged on the statements found on their website and publications.
- The FAA knowingly and willfully mislead the CTI colleges during this process, stating and implying that the role of the CTI program was going to expand, while simultaneously planning to hold an OTS announcement and devalue the CTI status. • The FAA misrepresented itself to the colleges who in good faith invested millions of dollars to maintain leading edge technology for training students. Some of this was funded by Federal Perkins Funding.
- The Barrier Analysis Study, used by the FAA to justify this change in the hiring process, stated that the AT-SAT and college is a “barrier” to minorities. It is poorly researched and focused on four-year CTI colleges. Community Colleges do not have the same selective admissions processthat 4-year colleges do and have much more diverse student populations
CTI DIVERSITY & MINORITY SUCCESS – CTI Colleges Have Diverse Student Populations
- Student grants are available to assist minorities in attending a CTI College! In many cases 75-100% of the tuition costs will be covered.
- Most colleges actively recruit from inner city high schools and have special college visitation days to introduce aviation career opportunitiesto minorities.
- Many colleges have dedicated departments for aiding and assisting minority students – for example, an Office of Multi Cultural Affairs.
- Most colleges have local, state, and federal grants and scholarships for which minority students will qualify.
- Many colleges employ special pedagogical strategies directed at improving minority success.
WHAT SHOULD BE DONE TO CORRECT THIS?
Recognizing that “Off the Street” hiring practices are expensive, inefficient, and at this time totally unnecessary, The Association of Collegiate Training Institutions has made the following recommendations:
- Reinstate the original CTI partnership and reverse the FAA’s decision to conduct only OTS, General Public announcements;
- Reinstate all CTI students previously recommended to the FAA by CTI Institutions into the hiring pool;
- Hire from the best source of qualified applicants: CTI programs, Veterans, and holders of CTO certificates;
- Resume GAO analysis of cost efficiency of CTI program as mandated by the FAA Modernization Act of 2012, Section 608; The additional costs involved with implementing this OTS hiring scheme could be better used to offer minority scholarships at CTI degree-granting institutions;
- Form an open, working relationship between the FAA and CTI colleges to further explore and resolve issues such as diversity in the workforce; and
- Commission an independent panel to study the cost effectiveness of the CTI program versusthe OTS hiring process.