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WMU admitting first class for air-traffic control program

by Tonya Durlach

Jan. 26, 2011 | WMU News

Photo of Western Michigan University Aviation.
WMU College of Aviation
KALAMAZOO--The latest training initiative for future air-traffic controllers is scheduled to take flight this fall at Western Michigan University's College of Aviation, located at the W.K. Kellogg Airport in Battle Creek, Mich.

Home to the third-largest aviation program in the country, WMU will be admitting a limited number of students into its new air-traffic control program for the 2011-12 academic year. Developed in partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration, the training program is designed to prepare students to report directly to the FAA's Oklahoma City academy and bypass an initial five-week basics course.

WMU was asked to join the FAA's Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative network last April, making it one of 36 schools in the nation to offer AT-CTI training--the only one in Michigan. Launched in 1990 by the FAA, AT-CTI aims to help recruit candidates for terminal and air-traffic controller positions. While jobs are not guaranteed to AT-CTI graduates, about 41 percent of FAA new hires over the past five years have attended such a program.

To ensure the future success of its students, WMU is integrating the AT-CTI training with its existing four-year aviation degree programs. This gives graduates of WMU's AT-CTI program the opportunity to follow multiple career paths without returning to the classroom.

Tom Thinnes, manager of aviation recruitment and outreach, says although specialized courses will offer experience in all facets of air-traffic control, WMU plans to focus on training controllers to work in towers, control ground movement and handle local traffic.

The first step in WMU's AT-CTI application process is to gain entry into the University's Aviation Science and Administration or Aviation Flight Science programs. Additional pre-requisites for acceptance may parallel the FAA's hiring criteria for air-traffic controllers, which include U.S. citizenship, a medical exam, security clearance, above-average knowledge in math and science, and a 31-year-old maximum-entry age.

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.

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

For more information about WMU's air-traffic training initiative, including admission requirements, contact Ryan Seiler, lead flight instructor and AT-CTI coordinator, at or (269) 964-6652.