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Sun, Mar 08, 2009

New Air Traffic Controller Training Program Comes To Texas

LeTourneau University To Offer Two- And Four-Year Courses

The Federal Aviation Administration is looking to hire 17,000 new air traffic controllers in the next decade. To help meet this need, LeTourneau University in Longview, TX was recently approved by the FAA to participate in the Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative (CTI) program. LETU is the only university in the state of Texas approved to prepare and train students interested in a career as an air traffic controller.

"I've heard them say that being an air traffic controller is like playing chess or Pac-Man in three dimensions -- only losing is not an option," said Sean Fortier, professor and chairman of LETU's Department of Applied Aviation Science in its School of Aeronautical Science. "High school students who are mature, responsible and are really good with video games and visualizing things in three dimensions would be good candidates for this lucrative career. It takes someone with great attention to detail, ability to focus and handle challenges."

FAA acting administrator Robert Sturgell said schools with this CTI program provide an excellent jump start into a challenging career. "These institutions will give thousands of future controllers an inside track on a great career," Sturgell said. The FAA has hired 5,000 new controllers over the past three years, with plans to hire more than 2,000 in fiscal year 2009.

LeTourneau University will begin offering this new program in the fall of 2009 when it opens its new 55,500 square-foot facility at the East Texas Regional Airport near Longview, surrounded by the picturesque piney woods of East Texas. The air traffic control training program can be completed in a four-year bachelor's degree program, or in a two-year associate's degree program.

In the four-year degree program option, students earn a Bachelor of Science in Air Traffic Management, which includes business management courses with air traffic control coursework. The bachelor's degree program lays a solid foundation for students to later move into management in their future careers with the FAA. 

The two-year program is an Associate of Science in Air Traffic Control which includes air traffic control training like the four-year program does, but lacks the management coursework and general education coursework necessary for a bachelor's degree. Those who opt for the two-year program are encouraged to continue their college education to complete their bachelor's degrees once employed with the FAA through LETU's online degree programs for working adults. 

Jon Weber, senior admissions counselor for LETU's School of Aeronautical Science, said students coming straight out of high school or straight out of the military in their early to mid-20s are prime candidates for the ATC-CTI program. 

"This program is great for that certain kind of student who sees a lot of hurdles to getting into an aviation career, whether it's the flight training costs or costs of tuition," Weber said. "With this degree and acceptance by the FAA, you make a competitive salary and work in aviation every day. But it's not an easy program. Students might look at a two-year degree and think that means it's easy, but that's not the case.

"It's a rigorous academic program requiring discipline, hand-eye coordination, maturity and technical skills, as well as adaptability to changes, like changing weather conditions, and the ability to multi-task and focus despite distractions. Students who are comfortable with constant changes in technology will be at a competitive advantage."

LeTourneau University alumnus Paul Diffenderfer, 52, started his career as an air traffic controller in 1983. Today, he oversees the training of new air traffic controllers for the FAA.

"It's been a very challenging career," he said. "I've always enjoyed the aviation industry, and it's a great job within that industry. It's a very secure job, especially during hard economic times. Pilot jobs came and went, but I've always had a steady job. It's not for everyone. To be good at it, you really have to work at it. You have to practice perfection. No mistakes.

"One of LeTourneau's hallmarks as a university is in growing students in integrity with a strong spiritual background and discipline," he said. "One other aspect is the technology side. Aviation continues a progression to more and more technologically advanced systems. That requires technological savvy and adaptability."

FMI: www.letu.edu/opencms/opencms/_Academics/Aero-Science/degrees/AirTrafficController.html

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