New ATC Curriculum Rolled Out


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 the enhanced curriculum to cover the material that college grads have been getting at the academy. Colleges can apply to be in the program 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.”   

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


  1. A good CTI background should be plenty to get a newbie ready for facility training. There’s no reason it can’t be done as well or better than the FAA Academy program. And the sooner we can get more people qualified and certified, the better!

  2. There are a LOT of ‘ifs’ in this scheme. From my experience on the ATC side, CTI schools weren’t the ‘silver bullet’ they were sold to be. I didn’t find the CTI grads able to pick up the job any faster than off-the-street (OTS) hires, and this was when CTI grads still went to the Academy after graduating from their CTI program.

    If anything, we had some issues with CTI grads who had an attitude of ‘entitlement’, thinking the fact they paid for their own education at a CTI school made their eventual certification a fait accompli.

    IF the FAA aggressively monitors the CTI schools to ensure they don’t run a ‘participation trophy’ program which passes marginal and sub-marginal students, this might work. Otherwise, all it will do is push the task of weeding out the ‘weak sticks’ up to the field facilities. Based on my experience from 30+ years in the biz, I rather doubt it will.

  3. Mr Brown
    I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s a feel good scheme that will only make a bad situation worse. Kicking the can into someone else’s yard.

  4. Agree with Mr Brown. I was an instructor at the Academy in Oklahoma. Off the street or CTI school made no difference in skill level or pass rate as I remember. That was the general consensus.

    This program will allow kids who can afford it a guaranteed job. Those who can’t afford a two year college won’t have a chance. Or is there still a selection process and is the FAA funding it?