Brief on hiring changes


Staff member
I got this a while back, and just forgot to post it. Thought it might be interesting to some.



In 2012, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) undertook a comprehensive review of the Air Traffic Control Specialist (ATCS) Centralized Hiring Process as called for by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This review and subsequent analyses indicated a number of concerns in the FAA ATCS hiring process, including the use of hiring sources, the Air Traffic Selection and Training Test (AT-SAT), and the Centralized Selection Panel. Accordingly, in 2013, the FAA undertook a comprehensive analysis of how to improve the current ATCS selection and hiring process and in 2014, developed both short and long term recommended improvements affecting:
  1. Vacancy Announcements
  2. Minimum qualifications
  3. AT-SAT (Air Traffic Selection and Training test)
  4. Referral Lists of Qualified Candidates
  5. Centralized Selection Panel
  6. Interview, and
  7. ATCS Overall Design Considerations – process integrity, multiple announcements, Veteran’s Preference issues
It should be noted here that the final report of the FAA Independent Review Panel on the Selection, Assignment and Training of Air Traffic Control Specialists issued on September 22, 2011 reviewed many of the same/similar parts of hiring and selection process and made recommendations commensurate with the interim and long term process changes used in ATCS announcements and hiring since 2014.

Short Term Recommendations

The FAA implemented an interim process to manage a general public announcement for entry-level ATCS positions in February 2014.

Key changes and features in the Interim process:
  • Single (FG-01) vacancy announcement resulting in one set of qualifications/eligibility for all applicants
  • Implemented use of Biographical Assessment (BA) as a hurdle in qualifications process. The BA measures important job-related personal characteristics: flexibility; risk tolerance; self-confidence; dependability; resilience; stress tolerance; cooperation; teamwork; and rules application.
  • Eliminated Centralized Selection Panel and Interview
  • Eliminated geographic referral preference (i.e., 2-state preference)
  • Implemented one nationwide referral list to preserve and properly adjudicate veterans’ preference
  • 1,593 selected via the interim process from the February 2014 announcement
Following the Interim public announcement for entry-level ATCS positions, the Agency continued work affecting long-term changes:
  • Completed an Occupational Job Task Analysis and Validation (involving input of over 1300 current Certified Professional Controllers (CPCs) and their managers)
  • Updated the Biographical Assessment (BA) to allow multiple versions and randomized questions; weighting of aviation education was modified
  • Improved AT-SAT testing by adding more flexibility in location and testing times for applicants; reduced testing costs to agency
  • Initiated a study to replace the current version of the AT-SAT with a validated alternative test battery
Long Term Recommendations

In 2015, the FAA implemented further recommendations, preserving key features from the interim process (e.g. no Centralized Selection Panel, geographic preference, etc.) However, the Agency hired for both experienced and entry-level ATCS positions, referring to the two approaches as “tracks”.

ATCS Hiring Tracks
1. General Experience/Education Track I (Entry-Level ATCS)
· External (All U.S. Citizens) general public vacancy announcement (FG-1)
· Focus was on reaching candidates without operational ATCS experience, but who have education and/or other general work experience

This group took the BA and the AT-SAT as well as met all other minimum qualifications for the position. Applicants were hired at the FG-1 level and attended FAA Academy training.

2. Specialized ATC Experience Track II (Experienced ATCS)
· External (All U.S. Citizens) announcement (AT-AG or per Collective bargaining Agreement)
· Focus is on reaching ATCS candidates with operational ATCS experience (e.g., reinstatement CPCs, former military with ATCS experience)

This group requires a minimum of 52 weeks of post certification ATC experience and will be hired at a higher pay level than the General Experience/Education Track. Because of specialized ATC experience, this group does not take the BA or AT-SAT and goes directly to the facility rather than the FAA Academy.

FAA retained an option, in rare circumstances, to utilize non-competitive reinstatements outside of standard two-track approach for critically staffed facilities.

Comparison of Applicant Flow Through Legacy ATCS Hiring Process and Revised ATCS Hiring Process


In summary, these changes enabled FAA to gain efficiencies and improve the ATCS hiring process by:
· Ending the use of large inventories segregated by applicant source and unrelated to then current hiring needs;
· Opening a vacancy announcement available on the same terms to all sources (all U.S. citizens) to ensure equitable treatment and the broadest pool of qualified candidates;
· Eliminating the Centralized Selection Panels and candidate interviews; and
· Developing and substituting the Biographical Assessment (BA) as a stand-alone, initial, objective selection test, in place of the AT-SAT’s Experience Questionnaire subtest, which had lost its validity. The BA is a computerized test that measures important and demonstrably job-related personal characteristics of applicants;
· Replacing the current version of the AT-SAT with a validated alternative AT Skills Assessment Battery; and,
· To date, FAA has hired over 2,500 ATCS under the revised hiring process (FY 2015/2016)


A critical element in supporting the FAA’s mission is having a well-trained cadre of Air Traffic Controllers (ATC) to manage traffic at the nation’s airports and in its airspace. At the end of mid FY 2015, the FAA employed 10,947 Certified Professional Controllers (CPC) nationwide, with an additional 2,964 personnel in ATC qualification training.

Once a “new hire” has completed the hiring process they begin “qualification training” at the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. At the Academy, students gain foundational air traffic control knowledge through classroom and simulation training. The ATCS training at the Academy is the most basic of training, and is used to determine if the students can master these basic skills prior to moving on to more advanced training.

Students begin training with an Air Traffic Basics course which is 25 business days in length. Students are afforded the opportunity to by-pass this Basics course in the training if they self-certify that they already possess the skills and abilities that it trains (less than 3% choose this option). Some topics taught in the Basics course are the National Airspace System, Navigational Aides (NAVAIDS), Principles of Flight, and Weather Fundamentals. Once they pass this course (only about .01% fails) they then complete one of three different tracks for Initial Qualification Training as follows: Tower, Terminal Radar or En Route (also known as Air Route Traffic Control Center [ARTCC] or “Center”). The Tower course is 36 business days and some of the topics taught are; Duties of the Local and Ground Controller, Separation Standards, Runway Incursions, and Phraseology. The Terminal Radar Course is 21 business days and some of the topics taught are; Radar Separation, Vectoring and Speed Control, Emergencies, and Issuing Weather Information. The En Route course is 59 business days and some of the topics taught are; Flight Plan Recording and Forwarding, Instrument Flight Rule (IFR) Clearances, General Control and Board Management, Radar Data Display, Radar Separation and Safety Alerts. For FY 16 the quota for each section is: Tower – 446 and En Route – 1,044.

The FAA Academy also trains ATC specialists that have certified in a field facility tower and are moving to a Terminal Radar environment (TRACON). The fiscal year 16 (FY16) quota for this option is 480. Additionally, the Academy trains ATC specialist for several types of staff positions within their facilities such as Airspace and Procedures Specialist, Traffic Management Specialist, and Quality Assurance Specialist to mention a few. The FY16 quota for these options is 1,126.

All new hires must successfully complete their Academy initial qualification training course in order to continue to the next phase of training, where they will be required to learn even more advanced skills for operation at higher levels of responsibility prior to becoming a Certified Professional Controller (CPC). Pass rates for new hires at the Academy are approximately 80% for Tower and 65% for En Route.

Upon successful completion of Academy training, graduates are assigned to air traffic control facilities based on the Agency’s needs. At their assigned facility they must complete additional rigorous classroom, simulation and on-the-job training program to achieve final certification as a CPC. All controllers are assigned periodic proficiency training in the form of recurrent training or other supplemental training which is designed to keep them familiar with seldom used procedures and/or to learn new procedures.

On-the-job training times vary based on the facilities’ operational complexity. On average, on-the-job training takes 1.5 years at a tower, 2 years at TRACON or 3.5 years at an En Route facility.
I was informed that candidates can not select between Tower, TRACON or En Route. Is this true?

If so, how is your position selected? Is this random or based on ATSA scores?
I was informed that candidates can not select between Tower, TRACON or En Route. Is this true?

If so, how is your position selected? Is this random or based on ATSA scores?

There's actually a document about that here on .65. The FAA basically goes down the list in order assigning Enroute/Terminal/Enroute/Terminal, and so on. Once either Enroute or Terminal is full, the rest of the candidates are put on the empty track. So, it's entirely random where you end up on that list, and the track you're assigned.

New Hire Track Selection
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