Letter from a CTI student

Edit: I’ve already gotten a few of the “Don’t think you’re better than OTS” comments. There are a lot of people who resent CTI students for being educated; maybe they feel threatened by people with degrees, or maybe a few too-arrogant CTI grads spoiled the reputation for the rest of us. Regardless, I don’t think that being a CTI grad makes me better than an OTS controller; ultimately the test of whether someone can be a controller comes during the training process.

That said, doesn’t it make sense to hire the pre qualified people who have already passed the ATSAT instead of random applicants with no aviation background? If FAA was going to destroy the benefits of the CTI program, why did they keep marketing it? Anyway, read on.

As you know, I have been let down pretty hard by the FAA’s inexplicable changes to their hiring policies.

I would like to think there’s a logical reason for what they have done. But when you have a pool of pre-screened, pre-trained applicants who have taken and scored well on the ATSAT, and you throw those people aside in favor of applicants from the general public…it smells fishy.

Not one to take such a massive slap in the face laying down, I’ve decided to write to my congressional representatives, and possibly go to the media. I have nothing to lose, and a big part of me really enjoys ruffling feathers, so…may as well run with what I’ve got.

For any other disgruntled former CTI students who were once told they were well-qualified before being told to piss off, feel free to take this letter and modify it for your own needs. If I get an answer from my rep I’ll be sure to share it with you here.

Dear (Representative),

I am writing to you to regarding recent changes to the FAA hiring policy for air traffic controllers. These changes remove qualified air traffic control applicants from selection, leaving less qualified applicants to fill positions in our nation’s control towers and radar centers.

I have two points to bring to your attention. First, the FAA’s changes to hiring pose a potential danger to the traveling public by hiring from a less qualified pool of applicants; second, the FAA’s actions have unjustly caused massive financial damage to thousands of ATC-CTI students.

Several years ago, the FAA instituted the Air Traffic Control College Training Initiative (ATC-CTI) program in order to pre-train and pre-screen applicants for air traffic control positions. ATC-CTI students were told they would be placed on a referral list and given preference over applicants from the general public for air traffic control trainee positions. Hiring preference would be based on GPA and scores on the Air Traffic Selection and Training exam, AT-SAT.

In December 2013, the FAA unexpectedly announced that it would no longer be using the referral list and that all previous applicant data, including AT-SAT scores, would be destroyed. Additionally, FAA would not be granting any preference to CTI students.  They would instead hire many controller trainees from the public at large. Many of these trainees have no background in aviation or air traffic control.

I find it difficult to believe that hiring from the general public is a better strategy for obtaining qualified controllers than hiring from a pool of students with degrees and training specific to air traffic control. Many of these students, myself included, have tested as “Well Qualified” on the AT-SAT. I think you would agree that this policy change is not sensible, and that the hiring of less-qualified individuals has the potential to harm the traveling public.

Furthermore, many thousands of ATC-CTI students are now left drowning in student debt holding worthless degrees. These students were told by the FAA that enrolling in CTI school was the best path to earn a training slot as an air-traffic controller, only to be told later that the FAA had changed their minds. The FAA’s inexplicable change in hiring policy has caused me and countless others like me great financial and personal harm.

I have two suggestions to rectify this situation.

First, Congress must investigate the FAA’s hiring practices. Only the most qualified individuals should staff our nation’s control towers and radar centers. There is speculation that FAA’s Office of Human Resources made these changes in order to massage their demographics by hiring more women and minorities, as CTI students and air traffic controllers in general are largely male and white. I maintain that race and gender should not be factors in the hiring of air traffic controllers.

Second, Congress should enact legislation to discharge CTI students from the financial burden of their student loans at the expense of the FAA. The FAA, an arm of the federal government, lied outright to CTI students about the value of their degrees. Their inexplicable policy changes leave us holding worthless degrees and burdened with unaffordable student loans. The FAA needs to be held accountable for their dishonesty and the harm it has caused many American college students.

I sincerely hope that you will look into this matter. If I may be of any assistance to you in any way, please feel free to contact me. Thank you for your time and for your service.

I know, I know. Many controllers working now were hired off the street, and they do exceptional work. This is not a slander against them, but rather an expression of frustration that the FAA told us to get a degree to maximize our chances and minimize their training costs, then turned around and slapped us in the face. And I think something nefarious is going on in the OHR; I think the FAA is playing with fire to try and massage their demographics. The letter is still a work in progress, but maybe it will get me somewhere. We shall see.

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5 thoughts on “Letter from a CTI student

  1. What was the document that first made you believe the FAA was going to offer preferential hiring through the CTI program if I may ask? Or did they tell you this verbally? What have the people at your college told you since the FAA change?

    • It’s been changed now, but the FAA’s website used to state that CTI students would be on a preferred track to hire. There was never a guarantee of hire, but it was allegedly the best track to get in. This was repeated verbally by the CTI schools.

      Not a lot in writing, though. *Big* mistake on my, and all the other CTI students’, part to take them at their word.

  2. My direct experience with the FAA is meager but from what I’ve been told and read it is a federal office laced with politics and cronyism. Your thought about airing it out to the media is, in my opinion, the best track. Just be sure you can to back up what you state. You may have already done the following but If you have a university where you live go talk to the head of the journalism department to see up you can audit a class to get a feel for how best to present your complaint to a reporter.

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