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Discussion in 'Change to my Frequency...' started by AndrewX, Jan 13, 2019.
My friend's son is interested in becoming an Air Traffic Controller. What's the best path?
If he wants a degree then a CTI program.
If he wants to jump right into ATC and serve his country in the process, then enlist in any of the military branches (minus CG) would be fine. My recommendation in order would be Air Force, Navy, Marines, Army.
He could wait, obtain at least 3 years of “progressively competitive work experience” and then apply. I don’t think he’d be as competitive with that route though. I’m not sure that they’ll be pulling as many from the off the street applicant pool as in previous years.
If he decides to go the military route, let him know that the Air Force is a 6 year commitment. I can't speak for the other branches but as Velocity said, he can serve his country and complete his degree with a whole lot of tuition assistance if he wants to.
I will also add that for a 6 year commitment he will sew on E-3 right out of basic training.
If he’s interested in going the collegiate route, I hear MTSU has a great ATC program.
He can start here.
A thing that to think about if going Military is coming out with a CTO Facilty Rating. That opens up being able to get a Contract Tower position. Navy spreads it’s AC Rating out and your more likely to get get stuck on a ship or a TACRON which won’t get you a Facility Rating.
Yep. CTO gives you way more options when you get out. Of course there are those who don’t care about working aircraft when they get out and just stay in for 20+ years til retirement.
Best case is to get facility rated top and down but I think the odds are slim for a first enlistment. I played my cards right and got RATCF and CTO, along with tactical qual (MATCALS) over 2 enlistments but I had to really push to pull it off.
Lack of CTO is another good reason I put Army at the bottom. I knew controllers working stage fields that didn’t qualify for a CTO because it’s not a class D. Also had controllers working C2 console operations in the back of a Black Hawk vs doing their MOS and getting much needed ratings. They even use them for restricted area “flight following.” We didn’t do any of that nonsense in the Marines. You could volunteer for additional jobs like C-12 crew chief but for the most part, we worked in our MOS.
Is the six year commitment six years active duty, or four years active duty and two years in the inactive reserve like it was when I served during the early sixties?
EDIT - I think I found the answer to my question online.
Stan, yes you answered your own question. Almost 7 months of that 6 year commitment will eaten up by basic training and tech school PLUS however long the training will take to get their CTO or radar rating. For us it is taking trainees over a year.
Had a professional friend with no aviation experience apply and recently get in.
I’d look into that before you spend big bucks on “aviation degrees”
As a CTI grad, I would be hesitant to recommend most schools. Unless they offer other things as part of the degree program, a CTI degree pigeon holes you pretty good.
UND, ERAU, MTSU, and Purdue are some that do a good job of providing other education. Things like business knowledge, a dispatch certificate, airport management knowledge, and etc are invaluable while someone waits for a spot with the FAA (a multi year process) and then god forbid you flunk out of the academy and need to figure out what to do with that fancy paper.
Military is a great route in my opinion. If you wash out you get retrained into something else so you still aren't high and dry.
Unfortunately there is no best answer in my opinion.
-The military is a great option. They pay for your training, pay for college so you can diversify while you are in, many employers (including the FAA) want to hire you, you have experience working real planes vs simulated ones. The problem for someone wanting to get to the FAA quickly is that some (maybe all) of the branches increased the ATC commitment to 6 years. You may get moved around several times (could be a + or -) and may end up in a war zone (again, could go in both columns).
-CTI schools will get you hired ahead of people "off the street" and could be a good option. Some are well into the 6 figures, some diversify and some have all your eggs in the ATC basket. I know there are many people that did this and didn't make it past the academy or through their first facility, they were sent packing and all that time/money is gone.
-Take the test, to me is the least best option. The FAA does occasionally hire people off the street via an aptitude test of some type. This is a good option if someone is sitting around bored and wondering if they can make a go of ATC. Considering how random they offer the test, how few are selected off the test and how many of those make it past OKC and then certify at their first facility, this isn't really the best path. It is the cheapest and easiest...if it works out for you.
If the AF offered 4 years still (what I did) I would say that is probably the best. Now that it's 6 years, I would see if the USMC or Navy offer 4 years and consider that. My understanding of Army ATC is there are very few that get to work facilities that get CTO's or radar ratings (may be wrong). Based on the 6 year commitment, I'd say its a toss up between enlisted guaranteed ATC in the AF and going to a CTI school. If money is no option to your friend, send him down to ERAU/UND and let him get all his pilot ratings, ATC certs and a degree. If money is an option, tell him to look into Beaver College (or one similar). They were the quickest to get a CTI cert in order to apply to the FAA last I checked...which has been a while. Then hopefully he can find something to do (CFI or whatever else he can find) while waiting on the FAA.
This is a very strange career. It's a weird path and can be hard to get in to. Many people put their eggs in the ATC basket only to be washed out at their first facility or the academy/military and sent packing. Sometimes they check out at a small/slow facility with dreams of getting somewhere bigger for the challenge or money and they wash and get sent to some other random small facility on the other side of the country. I just realized I was in the process of going full Nate so I deleted a bunch and am stopping here.
I hope it works out for your friends son. We for sure can use some more qualified people!!
Yeah, basic training at Lackland and then tech school at Lowry AFB near Denver took from 8 May 61 until 20 March 62, so almost 11 months. That's basically a quarter of my four year active duty tour getting trained. I have to say, the Air Force was a great experience for me; I learned a lot and grew up a lot. It led to a very satisfying career.
Hey guys, thanks for all the tips and really appreciate all the schools and options. He is exploring pilot, ATC, and a few other majors (all different schools) so he is still exploring. His immediate need is he has to do a job shadow for his senior project and wants to do ATC. Other than calling local airports and Operations, any ideas on how to do an ATC job shadow?
Call the FBO and ask for the number for the tower/approach/center. You can then call the facility and arrange a time, most places love bringing people in and will let you sit down and plug in and listen for a little while. This may be off limits during the shutdown though so keep that in mind. Try to visit all three kinds of facilities as the work is similar but different in all three environments.
Controllers are some of the friendliest people towards those who are interested in their career path and most are very proud of their profession. Just go in with an open mind and ask questions. Try not to say "well in the computer sim I use..."
Thanks for the tip... will have him call FBO at Nashville.
Good idea. If one of them has a flight school that might be the best one. They can help you get in Contact with the Tower/TRACON. Their number is 615-695-4500 I think.
Cool, thanks so much.