Experiencing a new wave of growth, the Air Traffic Control program sector of the College of Aviation is going through changes to further improve. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has a Federal Aviation Administration accredited College Training Initiative, or “CTI”, program. What this guarantees students enrolled in the Bachelors of Science in Air Traffic Management and Minor in Air Traffic Control degree programs is that they will be readily-equipped with not only the certification, but the knowledge required to become an air traffic controller in the FAA.
Professor Brent Spencer, program chair and head faculty member of the College of Aviation, says, “The program is growing quickly; we have about twenty-five students in the major, and about eighty-five in the minor.” Prof. Spencer, who is a retired FAA and US Navy air traffic controller, has been the faculty head of the ATC department since 2010. Since then, the program has enjoyed a steady rise in enrollment numbers due to the exceptional hands-on instruction approach by Prof. Spencer.
In addition to the quality of instruction, the laboratory facilities utilized by students in: AT 305, AT 401, and AT 405 (all laboratory classes), are exceptional. Professor Ray Bedard of the College of Aviation explains to people who tour the facilities that, “In 2007 we gave Jon Standley and Jon Wightman a hundred bucks and a couple of months to use their imagination. Two weeks and fifty bucks later, we had a successful prototype RADAR simulation laboratory.”
At the time, the laboratory was located in the Flight Simulation Center at the flight line. Students had to travel for classes, which were electives at the time. Six years and many improvements later, the University has a solid and capable laboratory, run by a stalwart crew of lab monitors. “Jon and Jon were students, and they built the foundation for what we have today, along with gratuitous amounts of work and dedication by Patrick Ganpath (Embry-Riddle Prescott, ’09, and current controller at Prescott Tower). We often explain how we pride ourselves in that as student lab monitors we are able to accomplish so much for the University and its students with a bit of resourcefulness,” says Thomas Mathieu, ATC student and one of the ATC Lab Monitors.
For those students considering a Minor in Air Traffic Control, or a Bachelors degree in Air Traffic Management, expect to be challenged in laboratory courses as you solve what is often described as a multi-dimensional puzzle in motion, ridden with the possibility of human error and the potential for disaster under a less-than-watchful eye.
Classes offered within the ATC Program at the time of publication include: a basic regulations, procedures, and mission purpose lecture course (AT 200); a navigation, chart interpretation, and phraseology lecture course (AT 302); a laboratory course focused on introductory Terminal RADAR Approach Control, TRACON, operations (AT 305); an Air Traffic Control Tower operations laboratory course (AT 315); an introductory Air Route Traffic Control Center enroute and advanced TRACON laboratory course (AT 401); and an advanced enroute operations laboratory course (AT 405).
It has been announced that, starting in the fall of 2013, a new course will be offered as an elective and required as the capstone course for the Bachelor degree program, AT 406. “AT 406 will incorporate everything the students learned in the rest of the ATC classes, as well as non-RADAR procedures,” says Prof. Spencer. This may prove tricky to students as, “the thing about non-RADAR is that you have to put together an image in your mind of where the aircraft are, using only printed and written flight strips. This is far more difficult than separating aircraft on a RADAR scope.”
Keeping on the edge of ATC training, the airspaces used for each laboratory class have been in the process of being tailored to the needs of each class. For example, in years past AT 305 has utilized Denver, CO airspace, which proved to be somewhat procedure-oriented. To allow students to be freer to create clever solutions in solving traffic separation scenarios, Wichita, KS airspace is now being used, which is far less procedure-oriented and far more appropriate for the cunning students at Embry-Riddle.
Prof. Spencer, who maintains constant correspondence with Terry Craft, head of the FAA’s CTI Program, has received word that the FAA is concerned about the rising percentage of air traffic control academy students failing (or washing out) enroute to operations training. “Because of how much time we spend on practicing enroute controlling, I believe our students are better prepared when they get to the academy (Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center in Oklahoma City, OK) and are picked up by an enroute facility.”
The College of Aviation is set to hire either a part-time or full-time faculty member to help Spencer teach courses within the program, and to meet the demand from the rising number of students. The COA expects to hire this faculty member by Fall of 2013, but cannot guarantee this at the time of publication.
For students looking to get ahead, classes offered during this summer, Summer 2013, include AT315 Air Traffic Control Tower Operations, and AT305 Air Traffic Management III.
ATC students can look forward to possible upgrades to the monitors in the Tower Laboratory, including new sixty inch monitors instead of the current thirty-three inch monitors. They can also look forward to a steadily growing program, ensuring they will have the best instruction and facilities to control simulated air traffic with.