4 aviation grads first to qualify under new FAA program

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Photo of air traffic control tower.

Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative

KALAMAZOO—Four recent Western Michigan University aviation graduates have the distinction of being the first from the University to successfully complete Federal Aviation Administration requirements of the Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative to compete for jobs as air traffic controllers.

Cameron McGillicuddy, of Lowell, Mich.; Marco Morales, of Wyoming, Mich.; Nichole Treganowan, of Gladstone, Mich.; and Mark Ward, of Caledonia, Mich., all graduated from WMU's College of Aviation in June with bachelor's degrees in aviation science and administration. Under the AT-CTI program that WMU was selected to partner with in 2009, they also passed the FAA's pre-employment test in which they all earned "well-qualified" scores—the highest hiring eligibility status.

Once the FAA officially graduates them from AT-CTI, they will receive a special code that allows them to apply for open air traffic controller jobs. The FAA is anticipating it will begin its hiring process again sometime in October or November, so that will be their first opportunity to get hired.

"It gives them a jump start on their careers as air traffic controllers," says Ryan Seiler, AT-CTI program coordinator at the University. "We were already teaching many of the objectives of AT-CTI within our degree programs, so partnering with the FAA in AT-CTI was a good fit and a great opportunity for our aviation students. Right now, someone couldn't even apply for these jobs without being an AT-CTI graduate or having previous ATC experience."

The job outlook for air traffic controllers is favorable, he adds. The FAA is able to closely predict its needs for these jobs because the government has a mandatory retirement age of 56 for air traffic controllers. It submits its 10-year hiring plan every spring. The past spring, that need was placed at more than 1,000 more controllers a year for the next decade.

"The job market is good, so it has been worthwhile to offer this opportunity to our aviation students," Seiler said. "There has been more interest from students, so we expect to see the numbers of participating students steadily rise."

All WMU students with an aviation major are eligible to participate in the AT-CTI program by adding specific elective courses to their degree program, he added.

AT-CTI participation at WMU continues to grow. This fall, another three students expect to graduate who also have already passed the FAA's pre-employment test with "well-qualified" scores.

WMU is one of only 36 schools in the country, and the only one in Michigan, approved to partner in the program, and the FAA is not accepting applications from institutions to join the program at this time, according to Seiler.