INSIDERS: Behind the Scenes of Air Traffic Controller Training

Air Traffic Control
Posted at 11:00 PM, Feb 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-08 10:48:22-05

VALDOSTA, Ga. (WTXL)--The Federal Aviation Administration plans to hire thousands of air traffic controllers over the next several years.

Back in December, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association president called the shortage a national crisis. 

More than 13,800 air traffic controllers are employed by the FAA.

The U.S. Department of Transportation says they plan to hire more than 6,300 in the next five years.

It's an important job in high demand, so how does one actually become an air traffic controller?

One school in south Georgia is getting the next generation of air traffic controllers ready.

It's not your average classroom. Right now it's a busy airport in San Antonio.

These students at Advanced ATC, Inc. at Wiregrass Georgia Technical College are learning how to manage life like situations under the instruction of an air traffic controller with decades of experience.

"Anything they can encounter they're already being trained and taught how to do so we're giving them the foundation too where they can work singles, parallels, and crossing configurations at the same time here,"said instructor Jonathan Byers. 

He tests students skills on other airports as well, but before enrolling into the program there are some requirements to see if you're cut out for the job like trying out the simulator

Under this year long program, there's about nine months of live air traffic controlling.

The program is intense, but the goal is to earn what's called a control tower operator certificate with facility rating by the FAA.

Abigail Diaz is now waiting to be hired on by the FAA. For Diaz this is her passion. She's from Illinois.

"I came here and I visited because I visited and I loved it you just get an adrenaline rush working traffic," said Diaz. "You leave the tower satisfied."

Advanced ATC, Inc. was established in 2008 to give the FAA an alternative for hiring.

"Over the next few years the FAA is going to have to hire thousands of controllers because air traffic controllers

have to retire by the age of 56 with the FAA so there's going to be a large retirement boom happening soon, so the

FAA is going to have to retire several air traffic controllers over the next few years," said Jennifer Thompson, a student and employee.

Advanced ATC says you can potentially start out at $43,000 and with experience earn up to $163,000. You learn more about the school, by clicking here

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