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The FAA has rolled out its new Enhanced Air Traffic-Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI) designed to allow graduates of college ATC courses to go directly to on-the-job training instead of stopping first at the FAA academy in Oklahoma City. “After graduating from one of the eligible schools, new hires can immediately begin localized training at an air traffic facility,” the agency said in a news release. “These graduates still must pass the Air Traffic Skills Assessment (ATSA) exam and meet medical and security requirements.” The FAA designed enhanced curriculum to cover the material that college grads have been getting at the academy. Applications will be taken in April.

The initiative was announced late last year as a measure to increase the throughput of ATC candidates through the system by freeing up space at the academy for those who are accepted “off the street” based on aptitude and psychological test results rather than first attending college programs. The FAA is short about 3,000 controllers and while there have been efforts to increase the numbers, the net workforce has not changed thanks to a bubble of retirements. Staff shortages have led to an increase in overtime and linked to a corresponding increase of close calls involving ATC in the last couple of years.

The FAA insists it’s not watering down training by making college grads skip the intense training at the academy and it will closely monitor the new program. “To ensure the highest quality of the Enhanced AT-CTI graduating students, the FAA has already provided guidance on academy criteria and coursework and will oversee all program requirements,” the agency said. “These schools will follow all the technology, testing, oversight, and participation requirements of the new Enhanced AT-CTI program.”   

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