MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) – Minnesota’s only air traffic control program is at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, and it’s facing major turbulence as it tries to navigate through a new Federal Aviation Administration hiring process.
The FAA made a change several months ago to expand its pool of candidates, and the new application process no longer prioritizes a degree from an air traffic control school, like the program at MCTC.
The experience questionnaire, which was previously done with the Air Traffic Standardized Aptitude Test (AT-SAT) was removed. It was replaced with a new biographical assessment and is now part of the application process where candidates identify various aspects of their education and aviation-related experience on the assessment.
MCTC is an FAA-certified school, one of 35 across the nation, where students have spent thousands of dollars for training, only to discover the FAA changed the rules. Whether you graduate from one of these schools or walk in off the street, you have to take an online biographical questionnaire that contains questions about high school math scores, if the applicant sees himself or herself as persistent or determined, and even previous athletic participation.
Air traffic controllers make sure airplanes stay safe in the skies — and it can be stressful, the FAA said in a statement to Fox 9. The average salary is $122,530 a year. When the FAA accepts someone, these students go to the FAA for training, and students who get a degree from programs like MCTC’s get to skip the first few weeks. MCTC was given no warning that the FAA was about to do this, and in turn, about 40 students have dropped out of the program.
Now, students are turning to lawmakers for answers. A bi-partisan group of Illinois lawmakers is sponsoring new legislation called the Safe Towers Act in effort to reverse the FAA’s decision. Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison says he will support it.