Improving ATCS Selection from Sources Other than the General Public
Linda Pierce, Ph.D. (PDF) and Kate Bleckley, Ph.D. (PDF)

The Selection Research Team at CAMI is charged with validating and improving the selection process for Air Traffic Control Specialists (ATCS) and is implementing a comprehensive research program to address issues of importance to the FAA. This specific project is aimed at improving selection from among applicants with prior experience in air traffic control or a four-year college degree from an accredited aviation program referred to as the Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI). Applicants with prior experience are primarily former military controllers, but may also be reinstatements with at least three years of progressively responsible work experience. Also considered in this group are applicants with other types of aviation-related experience such as a control tower operator (CTO) certificate, private pilotÂ’s license, air defense intercept experience, etc.

Our first task is to examine the appropriateness of qualification standards used to select ATCS from among applicants with prior experience. Qualification standards have not been updated in more than 25 years and it is likely that some change is needed in how previous experience is evaluated. For example, current qualifying standards require former military controllers to have experience controlling traffic from a fixed, ground-based facility. This standard precludes shipboard experience. Our task is to determine if current qualifying standards are appropriate or should be modified to reflect current military occupations while retaining high standards for performance.

Another task under this effort is to examine existing data sources to identify additional predictors of success for those hired with previous experience or based on completion of a CTI degree program. We will determine if there are work, education, or other predictors of success that could be used in addition to prior ATC experience for selection. We will also be examining the utility of AT-CTI graduates taking AT-SAT, the standardized ATCS selection test. AT-CTI graduates pass AT-SAT at a very high rate, limiting the ability of the test to discriminate among the applicants. If other predictors of success can be identified, it may be possible to eliminate AT-SAT as a hiring prerequisite for this group of applicants.

The last task is to examine qualification standards for selection of Flight Service Specialists (FSS) in Alaska. The majority of FSS positions within the National Airspace System, with the exception of Alaska, are held by contract personnel and as such qualification standards have not been examined recently and may need refinement based on advances in aviation.

In summary, this research effort will use both a qualitative and quantitative approach to examine and improve our ability to select ATCS candidates from sources other than the general public and to update our processes for selecting FSS.