Jason Bigler has spent the past two years at Sacramento City College’s aeronautics department, preparing to become an air traffic controller.
Time he and his classmates may have wasted now that the Federal Aviation Administration has changed its hiring process.
“It appears that military experience, CTI program aviation experience in general, played a part,” Bigler said.
In fact, Professor Scott Miller’s entire class at McClellan Airfield may have been preparing for the wrong type of test. It used to be that people like Bigler would have to finish his schooling, and take the AT-SAT, the test to screen air traffic controllers.
But now the FAA says to apply for the job, there’s no experience necessary.
“The students that had completed the program and graduated, they were told that those scores would be disregarded and they would have to apply off the street like everyone else,” Miller said.
Starting this year, the FAA only requires students to pass a biographical questionnaire, which Bigler said has little to do with aviation.
“There were questions in there about your time in high school, what kind of sports you played,” Bigler said.
While the FAA isn’t explaining the change, Miller and other critics believe it has to do with a recent FAA study citing lack of diversity.
“The two year schools, like Sacramento City College, which is very proud of its diversity, was not considered as part of its study,” Miller said.
And few of Miller’s qualified students are passing that questionnaire. In fact out of all of Miller’s 38 students, the only one to pass that questionnaire was Bigler.
“Not in the slightest, I have no idea (what I said differently than the other students),” Bigler said.
Meanwhile the FAA released this statement:
“In 2013, the FAA reviewed the end-to-end process of hiring and assigning air traffic control specialists. As a result, in order to recruit a better qualified candidate and reduce costs associated with testing and training, the FAA chose to make several improvements to the way it selects, trains, and assigns air traffic controllers. Improvements were made to enhance decision making and increase objectivity in the assessment of candidates.
“The selection process for new air traffic controllers was very competitive.
“In the course of two weeks, we received over 28,000 applications for 1,700 positions. We expect to hire additional controllers next year and have encouraged those not selected to reapply then,” said Ian Gregor, Public Affairs Manager for the FAA Pacific Division.”