New Air Traffic Controller Training Announced at WMU

Air traffic control tower - Seattle

Air traffic control tower - Seattle (photo: Brandon Farris)

Western Michigan University (WMU) announced it will begin air traffic controller training at its Battle Creek Michigan campus in the fall of 2011. The program, part of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI) is designed to fast track prospective controllers through the FAA’s Basic Course normally offered in Oklahoma City.

According to a WMU press release, students wishing to become air traffic controllers will need to enroll into one of two programs currently offered at WMU, the Aviation Science and Administration program or the Aviation Flight Science program.

WMU is now one of only 36 schools in the U.S. that offers the AT-CTI program and is the only institution in Michigan offering the course.

The FAA imposes strict hiring criteria on its air traffic controller candidates, chiefly an age restriction of 31 years. Successful candidates must also be U.S. citizens, pass a medical examination, display excellent mathematical and science skills, and pass a thorough background check. WMU indicated it may use similar criteria when selecting students for the AT-CTI program.

Those who complete the initiative and graduate with an aviation degree from WMU must also pass the FAA pre-employment test for air-traffic controllers and undergo additional training at the administration’s air-traffic academy in Oklahoma City to attain their certification.

“We are working out the course details with the FAA,” said Ryan Seiler, the college’s lead flight instructor and AT-CTI coordinator. “We do know that those who complete our training will be able to bypass some basic pre-requisites at the FAA Oklahoma City academy.

“Prospective students should realize that the FAA is the one doing the hiring and completion of any AT-CTI course work does not guarantee a job,” Seiler said. “That successful result comes with satisfactory completion of a battery of tests, clearances, and an interview process administered by the FAA. “However,” Seiler said, “we believe that our specialized courses will give students a leg up on achieving that success.”

“That is why we are approaching this a little bit differently than other schools,” said Tom Thinnes, the college’s director of recruitment and outreach. “We intend to make this training a part of one or more of our 4-year aviation degree programs, specifically the aviation science and administration curriculum. That will give the students at least two career options, which is what we try to do for them.

“One of the reasons for this approach,” he said, “is the FAA’s 31-year-old, maximum-entry age and the mandatory retirement of air-traffic controllers who reach the age of 56. To be on the safer side, students will want to plan on graduating at least two years prior to their 31st birthday to allow sufficient time for the FAA hiring process.”

The federal government employs about 90 percent of all air-traffic controllers, according to the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to March 2009 bureau statistics, the average yearly salary of U.S. air-traffic controllers was $109,000.

WMU’s College of Aviation is located 18 miles east of the main campus at the W.K. Kellogg Airport in Battle Creek. As the third largest aviation program in the country, the college offers bachelor degrees in flight science, aviation maintenance technology, and aviation science and administration.

For learn more, please visit the Western Michigan University Air Traffic Controller Training page at

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