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Air traffic controller program granted lift-off

October 25, 2007

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) gave ASU the thumbs-up sign Oct. 16 to receive the Air Traffic Controller Collegiate Training Initiative (CTI) designation for its new air traffic controller degree program.

The designation as a CTI program is highly coveted, and only select institutions are awarded such status.

The FAA works with schools and universities all across the country as part of the CTI, which designates an institution as an FAA partner. Such a designation gives preferential hiring to students who complete the degree program.

ASU’s program is unique in that it was designed by current and former air traffic controllers, as well as faculty members. Students graduating from the program will have a combination of academics, theory and practical application, says Michael Pearson, a clinical associate professor

in the Department of Aeronautical Management Technology and an air traffic controller at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

“The program has been specifically designed to greatly reduce the time required for ASU students to enter the work force and obtain full performance level status,” Pearson says. “The first graduating class of CTI students is expected by spring 2009.”

The FAA estimates that, over the next 10 years, more than 17,000 air traffic controllers will be needed to replace retiring ATCs.

Mandatory retirement is part of the profession, and the retirement dates for many of the air traffic controllers hired by the Federal Aviation Administration in the 1980s are fast approaching.

To help meet the expected demand, the Arizona Board of Regents approved the Air Traffic Management bachelor’s degree in June 2006. As a new program, the aeronautical department in the College of Technology and Innovation continues to develop relationships with the aeronautical industry, as well as professionals in the air traffic controller field.

“The CTI program is evolving, and it is likely in the near future that it may be possible for graduates of these programs to move faster through the FAA training than they have in the past,” says Richard Charles, chair and professor of the Department of Aeronautical Management Technology.

If this internship program is successful, the FAA may use it as a model and implement it at other CTI-designated colleges and universities.

For information about the program at ASU, visit the Web site or call (480) 727-1021.