Aspiring air traffic controllers now have a faster alternative to two year training programs. Advanced ATC, Inc., a privately held company based in Jacksonville, Fla., offers an intense one year training program through Valdosta Technical College, located in south Georgia.
Students with no previous experience in the field are now able to train and qualify for Control Tower Operator certification in one year. The accelerated ATC program is a response to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administrations dire need to fill control towers with skilled and knowledgable personnel. The FAA estimates 70 percent of controllers will retire between 2008 and 2015. The problem stems from the firing of more than 11,000 striking controllers in 1981. Controllers hired after the strike are now reaching the mandatory retirement age of 56. The FAA hopes to recruit and hire at least 18,000 controllers over the next ten years to fill the open positions left by retirees. AATC provides classroom, simulator instruction and testing, followed by on-the-job training in an active control tower. AATCs curriculum covers requirements set forth by the FAA. Students who demonstrate skills required of a controller will receive a certificate of completion from Valdosta Tech. AATC will recommend these students to the FAA for the Control Tower Operator examination. Students receiving their FAA CTO certificate will then receive job placement assistance from AATC. Graduates will be qualified to work for the FAA, the U. S. Department of Defense or a contract tower firm. Valdosta Technical College will be the first to offer a college certificate program through AATC. The first class of students started March 2009 and new classes will begin each month. AATC and Valdosta Tech have partnered with the Lowndes Valdosta Airport Authority for use of the airports tower during on the job training. Students will log hundreds of training hours in the state-of-the-art Adacel Control Tower Simulators, also used by the FAA.