ATC Hiring Changes Draw Protest

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The FAA is casting a wide net to find candidates for thousands of air traffic controller jobs -- and in doing so, it's trying some new strategies, which has caused distress among some who were on track to qualify under the old strategies. Students enrolled in any of the FAA-approved Collegiate Training Initiative programs at 36 sites around the country were never guaranteed a job with ATC; however, they were placed in a direct-hire pool of applicants the FAA would mine to fill vacancies. Under the new wide-net hiring policy, CTI graduates compete with everyone else who applies, on an equal footing. "We're a little disappointed that this decision has been made," Doug Williams, director of the aviation program at Baltimore County Community College, told the Baltimore Sun. "We feel that this is the wrong way to go about this, [our students] should be given this preference, as they have [been] in the past."

The FAA says it made the change "in pursuit of continuous process improvement … to be able to select from a wide pool of eligible candidates." Under the new system, applicants complete a "biographical assessment" in which they can provide details about their education and aviation-related experience. Selected applicants then will be invited to take the ATC standard aptitude test, the FAA said. Doug Church, spokesman for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, told AVweb on Tuesday NATCA has taken the position that it's up to the FAA to set hiring policies.

"NATCA is not involved in those decisions, although we have always maintained that the FAA should hire the most qualified candidates and place them in facilities where they have the highest likelihood of success during their training," according to a NATCA statement. "The FAA has a significant hiring need. We are in the midst of a large retirement bubble and due to sequestration there was an extended hiring freeze in 2013. NATCA has been advocating for increased air traffic controller hiring and will continue to do so." The FAA is accepting applications for ATC jobs for a limited time.