TCC Launches Air Traffic Controller Program

Wednesday, March 4th 2009, 6:12 pm
By: News On 6

By Emory Bryan, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Students looking for a career in aviation now can train at Tulsa Community College to be an air traffic controller.  It's a new curriculum that can lead to an above average salary and a job that's still in demand.

TCC and 30 other colleges are starting up air traffic controller programs.  The one at TCC has room for about 30 students.

There's a shortage of controllers and the FAA helped set up this training program to get more people interested in what can be a high paying job.

A $1.5 million airport tower simulator makes up the heart of TCC's new Air Traffic Controller course.  It's a state of the art system.  It is the same one used at airports and the FAA.  The simulator recreates the view of real airports with as few or as many planes as needed for training.

"It's much more realistic and the students get a feel immediately for what it's going to be like," said TCC Air Traffic Controller instructor Ben Bancroft.

Ben Bancroft is the course instructor and a retired controller.  He says this program feeds students to the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City.

"Our objective is to supply the FAA with quality students, or applicants, who are ready to learn, when they get to the academy they won't hear phrases they don't know, they will be familiar, they'll know what it means and they'll be ready to go," said TCC Air Traffic Controller instructor Ben Bancroft.

TCC launched the program to help fill the need for about 1,500 new controllers each year.  The training takes two years, includes regular college work and flight training, and leads directly to employment with the FAA.

"So we're not just putting people out for a job right now, it's for a career," said Chief Flight Instructor Matthew Wise.

Matthew Wise says new the new course is both an opportunity for students and for TCC.

"We want to build a reputation so when they see an applicant from TCC; they know that student has been armed with everything they need," said Chief Flight Instructor Matthew Wise.

The only catch, the FAA doesn't hire controllers who are over 31 years old.  But, it does pay well.

After about four years of training and working, the salary is $60,000 a year.  For career controllers, according to the government, the average salary is $122,000.