Over-sized apartment style suites at Sonesta ES

Passing the Academy (Enroute) 2019 Edition

Academy Study Guides

NN9419

Trusted Contributor
FAA
Messages
155
Facility
ZAB Albuquerque Center
Hey all. There have been a few threads like this one of the years, and reading them was helpful to me during my stay in OKC so thought I’d do my best to share the knowledge. Just graduated Initial Enroute last week and will be starting at ZAB next week. Hope this is helpful and doesn’t just come across and rambling nonsense, feel free to ask questions and I’ll do my best to help.

Pre-Employment/Clearances: Just to touch on this quickly, after you apply for an OTS bid, the best advice I can give is that you forget you ever applied. The process is extremely lengthy, to say the least. After you apply, you can expect at least a couple months before you’re contacted to schedule your ATSA, probably a few more weeks to actually take the test, several more months to get your results, several more months to get your TOL, etc etc. For context, I applied in July 2018. I didn’t receive my TOL until March, 2019 and was in OKC by the end of May. Just take each step as it comes, complete tasks/appointments as quickly as you can, and DO NOT harass the FAA asking for updates.

Pre-OKC: A lot of people will be excited and want to try and ‘study ahead’ of arriving in OKC. Don’t waste your time. They’ll teach you everything you need to know, plus, they periodically change the curriculums so there’s no use in studying anything that may not be up to date anyways. Instead, use the weeks/months before your report date to research housing in OKC and just relax as much as possible. It’s going to be looooong time before you get a good break again.

Housing/OKC Life: There are plenty of housing options available, all with their pros and cons. Check our the FAA Academy website for a list of providers. Personally, I stayed at Anatole Apartments and would highly recommend it to anyone. 5 mins from the academy, modern/clean units, and a nice community feel. If you’d prefer to have roommates, Kim’s is the way to go. Either way, you can’t go wrong with either of those locations. There’s plenty of stuff to do around OKC, and it’s not the horrible/boring place many make it out to be, IMO. There’s plenty of good restaurants, Bricktown in particular is good area to go out every now and then. There’s a small Six Flags in town, museums, a large zoo, casinos, etc. Obviously you don’t want to be going out every night while in the Academy, but definitely take at least 1 day on the weekend to just chill and not focus on work. This process is going to be draining and everybody is going to need a break.

Air Traffic Basics: You finally made it! You’ve been sworn in, sat through hours of FAA videos on work environment and whatnot, and are officially starting your training! You’ll hear that basics is ‘easy’ and you don’t really need to study. This isn’t entirely accurate. Basics is easy in the sense that it’s essentially just a hyper-accelerated college class. You’ll sit all day as the instructors read to you from the book and answers questions. It’s all just memorizing bullet points and definitions and being able to regurgitate them on the tests. That being said, it’s a LOT of information. You will go through a large textbook every week for the 5 weeks you’re in basics. You’ll also take 5 block tests that can help you gauge where you’re at. There is one final exam at the end of the class. You need a 70% to pass. A 69.99% gets you escorted out by security and your FAA career is over. Be warned, the final is definitely more challenging than the block tests. People DO fail basics every now and then, most likely because they believed the ‘it’s easy, you don’t need to study’ notion and they didn’t take it seriously. Don’t study 12 hours a day, but don’t ignore it either. Review a little bit every day, ask questions about things that you may not fully understand, and focus on questions you miss on the block tests. Yes Basics is ‘easy’ compared to the rest of the academy, but don’t neglect it. You don’t want to be ‘that guy’ that doesn’t make it across the street.

Initial Enroute (Academics): You made it through Basics and now get to start the real stuff! #1 piece of advice once you make it across the street: DO NOT QUIT!! I say again DO NOT QUIT! The program is designed to make you feel overwhelmed and test your mental and emotional limits. They will throw everything at you the first couple of days: the map, phraseology, book work, etc. Just take it one piece at a time and be aware that nobody else has any clue what’s going on either. It’s totally normal. Just don’t give up! It will all come together at the end.

Non-Radar: Now you get your first taste at “controlling.” After academics which will seem to drag on forever, you’ll start running practice problems. Each person will have 3 runs per day (and remote for 3 others) for a several weeks. When you run, you get 15 mins to preplan, and then 30 mins to execute. A retired controller will be sitting behind you, and a classmate will be sitting next to you as the remote (pretending to be the pilots/other controllers you call). The runs can be frustrating at times, and you’ll oftentimes feel like you have no idea what you’re doing. Just keep moving and learn from mistakes. Try to not make the same mistake twice. Instructors can also be a bit abrasive, but realize they’re there to help you and try and soak in as much as you can from them. To avoid having them chew you out, by the time you start running scenarios, you’re going to need to have the map down, especially your diamond mileages and frequency changes. You’re also going to want to be automatic with your phraseology. The instructors don’t want to be spending time teaching you stuff you should have learned during classroom time 2 weeks ago.

Non-radar Evals: Your first taste at graded scenarios! After you’ve run 26 practice problems, you’ll have 2 graded eval runs worth 7% of your final grade each. Eval day can be intense, even though you’ll only be running two 45 min problems, you’ll be sitting in a ‘sequester room’ for the rest of day while others in your class run. You’re only able to leave to use the restroom one at a time and there is absolutely no discussion of scenarios allowed. When you run your problem, it will be similar to all the practice runs, except you’ll have a professional remote and it will be an evaluator sitting behind you instead of an instructor. The difficultly in the problems varies greatly. Some are easier, some are harder, a lot just depends on luck or the draw. The best approach is to just try and control your nerves as much as possible, and think before each move you make. Ultimately, bombing one (or even two) non radar problems will not kill you, but doing well can be very helpful. Just don’t get down on yourself if it doesn’t go well. I ended with a 59% average on my two NR evals.

Radar: Ahh, now the real fun begins lol! After you finally get to burn/throw away your piles of strips, you jump right into the deep end with new concepts. You’ll have another 2 weeks of academics right off the bat, with most of the information being pertinent to the CKT 2. After that, you’ll start with message practice, which is essentially time to let you get used to the gear. Hopefully you’re instructors will start going over the gear a bit earlier as there is a reasonable learning curve. By this time, you’re going to want to be hitting the SOP and your LOAs hard. I can’t stress this enough. These documents tell you how to handle every scenario and situation you’re going to see. If you know the documents, it will make things way easier. If you don’t, you’re going to struggle. After a few days of message practice, you get thrown right into running problems in the simulation lab. The lab is based on an actual ARTCC control room area. You will be assigned to a ‘sector’ where you will work with a retired controller on the R Side, a row instructor will be sitting behind you grading, 2 remotes will be in another room to serve as the pilot/other controllers, and you will be the D Side controller. Each problem is 45 mins long, and you will run 3 a day. For your first couple weeks, the last problem you run each day will introduce a new concept, and then your first two problems the next day will reinforce the new concept along with what you’ve learned previously. After problem 10, there are no new concepts. The problems will just become increasingly more busy and much faster paced. By the time you’ve run all 40+ problems, you will know how to handle every situation and you will have been working problems in the 12s that are much faster than the evals will be. As you progress through the problems, just remember the theme of DONT QUIT. Like everything else, radar problem month is a roller coaster ride and you will go from feeling great one run, to feeling like a total idiot the next. Just keep moving forward and trust that you are absorbing what you need to. Ask your row instructors and leads questions on ANYTHING you may not be 100% sure on. Don’t forget, they are all there to help you succeed. Don’t try and figure everything out on your own.

Radar Evals: I wont sugar coat Eval days. They suck. They really suck. This will probably be the most stressful day of your life, but you need to remember that you’re ready and you can do it. Not letting nerves/emotions overwhelm you is the #1 key to making it through these 2 days of hell. You will know how to do everything you see in the Evals, just leave your nerves outside the door to the lab, sit down at the sector, and do your job. It is very doable. The evaluators are fair, you can’t blame them if you have a bad run. Also, if you have a bad run, do not let it get you down. Stay focused, and make it happen in the next one. I needed a 65 average on my 3 Evals. I bombed the first one with a 40, then got a 65 on my second, and then crushed the last one with a 96. Another classmate of mine really bombed their first run with a 5. Then in the very next problem, got a 100. Seeing that helped inspire me to stay positive. It’s all a mine game. Control your emotions and nerves and you can do it. I know it’s easier said than done, but that’s really what it boils down to.

Misc.: Don’t be intimidated by the pass rates you hear, overall the Academy is very doable for most people. We had 14/17 people walk out with new jobs after Evals. Just have your priorities in order, and give it everything you’ve got. Don’t party every night or slack off. The FAA will push studying in groups as basically being the most beneficial thing you can do. Some instructors will even go as far as imply that if you’re not in study groups every night, you won’t make it.But it’s really to each their own, IMO. I don’t learn very well from group study, and met up with 2-3 other guys maybe 4-5 times total in OKC. Just do what works for you. That being said, get along with all of your classmates, don’t let there be any drama. Don’t get into trouble while in OKC, especially drinking and driving. The FAA will fire you for anything they deem even slightly out of line. You’re a probationary employee, act like one. And finally, try and enjoy the experience. Thousands and thousands of people apply to this job every year and only a select few end up making it to the Academy. This will likely be one of the most challenging, but also one of the most rewarding 4 month periods in your life. Just take it one step at a time. You can do this.
 
Last edited:

AMD

Trusted Contributor
FAA
Messages
206
Facility
ZOA Oakland Center
Just to reinforce the thing about nerves during radar evals, I was so positive I’d be fine as soon as I sat down to start my problem because that’s what happened in my nonradar evals. I walked out of those with a 100 and a 90 because I was calm and focused. But radar is such a different animal. I studied to the point of complete information saturation. You could have thrown any practice problem at me and I would have known EXACTLY what to do in every little scenario. I needed a 56 average across all three evals OR I could have mathematically passed with two 85s and I was so sure I’d just somehow be relaxed like in nonradar. I was nervous the entire time, made some of the stupidest mistakes, most of which I had NEVER made before during practice problems. The ONLY thing hurting my scores was nerves. But I fought through the last eval and finished 5th out of 9 in my class. If you make a mistake in an eval KEEP GOING. Do not dwell or stare at the scope trying to figure out how to fix it! The evaluators take this into account when scoring you. One of my classmates made a huge mistake right at the beginning of a problem but he kept fighting through the whole 40 minutes and he’s employed now. I was really lucky I had so many points already going into radar evals. Yes they’re worth the most points, but DO NOT slack on everything else. Some of the tests are easy 100s, don’t throw those points away.

P.S. If anyone’s dreading ZOA, I’m actually really happy here and I’m glad I chose it. Yes cost of living is high, but the facility and everyone I’ve met so far are great, and almost everyone asks if you’ve found a place to live because they’re ready to help you out with information or even a room to rent until you find something yourself. Also you can’t beat California weather.
 

NN9419

Trusted Contributor
FAA
Messages
155
Facility
ZAB Albuquerque Center
Best advice ever! lol
Lol! If you’re looking to start a new job quickly, the Federal Government is not the place to look haha! But if you forget about, then it’s a great surprise when you actually do hear something back! When I got my TOL, I was like “oh yeah, I did apply to this!” 😂
 

PlainPlane

Member
Messages
8
Thanks for the shoutout NN 😂 yes, as the classmate who got the 5 on that first run, I can confirm radar evals suck. I’d basically given up after that first one, called my parents and pretty much told them it’s over. Walked myself to the managers’ office with the intent to quit, hoping to save myself some embarrassment on the next run. The only reason I didn’t quit is because the manager I was talking to told me I had to go upstairs and talk with someone else to get her opinion on what to do and ultimately resign... I didn’t feel like walking upstairs 😂 so I instead walked downstairs and into my next eval with a “who cares I’ve accepted I’m done anyway” attitude and managed to pull that 100 off. I was elated at first, and then the weight of what I had to do on my last eval hit and THEN CAME THE NERVES. Everyone assumed the first eval was nerves for me, but I was actually very calm and it just so happened the problem was full of all of the things I sucked at. Literally all of my weakest points in one problem. Once I realized how many mistakes I was making maybe halfway through the run, that’s when the “I’m gonna bomb this” nerves kicked in and really drove that score down. So initially, no nerves, just my own personal nightmare problem. Anyway! For my last eval I needed an 83... let me tell you, these evaluators ARE human and DO want you to pass... these guys NEED us, WANT to pass us. I pulled off an 86 that last run. I waited outside in that stupid hallway for FIVE OF THE LONGEST MINUTES OF MY LIFE losing my mind because I didn’t think I pulled it off. Talk about a Hail Mary. My personal lesson taken from the Academy was obviously NEVER give up. It’s seriously not over until you’re being walked out by security. The Academy taught me a lot about myself and shows you how mentally resilient you really are. I’m still convinced CAMI set it all up so that I got a 5 and then 100 to see how I’d handle that much stress 😂 anyway, I am HAPPILY off to ZOA, which was surprisingly on my top 3, so I’m excited to go! Lots of friends went that way so I’m happy to be with them! Let me know if anyone needs a pep talk, I got my fair share those last couple days 😂
 

amo4

Member
Messages
10
Honestly, thank you for this! This is by far the best thread I've read in relation to the academy and what it's like. Keeping this for future reference once I (hopefully) get a TOL
 

DragonSeabee

Member
Messages
7
Don't forget about an eye exam, my last eye exam was 5 years ago, from my academy start date.

Ordered online glasses during radar lab traning, which was too strong on one eye, especially after a few days. Ended up not checking my screen for correct a/c id typing, would have gotten 2 simple errors, instead of 8-9 errors on one evaluation. Hope this helps one soul out there...
 

NN9419

Trusted Contributor
FAA
Messages
155
Facility
ZAB Albuquerque Center
Oh, one other item I forgot to add. Take your academics as seriously as possible. Academics include a map test, 2 CKT (book knowledge) exams, an aircraft characteristics test, and a computer entry exam. In the end, academics are only worth 20 points out of 100, but doing well on them can make the difference being sitting in the room on placement day, or sitting on a plane headed home. In my case as an example, out of my 5 non-radar/radar evals, I technically received a failing grade (below 70%) on 3 of them. But I averaged mid-90s on all of my academics, and it helped push me over the passing mark in the end. Grab as many of the ‘easy’ points as you can, and it’ll make the evals a bit less critical.
 

GulfBravoPapa

Forum Sage
Messages
888
Don't forget about an eye exam, my last eye exam was 5 years ago, from my academy start date.

Ordered online glasses during radar lab traning, which was too strong on one eye, especially after a few days. Ended up not checking my screen for correct a/c id typing, would have gotten 2 simple errors, instead of 8-9 errors on one evaluation. Hope this helps one soul out there...
You should have had an eye exam during the hiring process....
 

knguyen36

Member
Messages
6
Just wondering for those who recently went through the academy and made it to placement day, how long are the enroute facility lists you have to choose from? Do the majority of the class go to one facility or is there a small window of choice? Thanks in advance
 

32andBelow

Forum Sage
Messages
609
Just wondering for those who recently went through the academy and made it to placement day, how long are the enroute facility lists you have to choose from? Do the majority of the class go to one facility or is there a small window of choice? Thanks in advance
It varies widely. The last class just got like 10 choices. Semant classes only get 3-6 choices. Only 3 or less from your class will go to your facility most likely.
 

knguyen36

Member
Messages
6
It varies widely. The last class just got like 10 choices. Semant classes only get 3-6 choices. Only 3 or less from your class will go to your facility most likely.
Thanks for the response. There are only 6 people in my class beginning mid-Nov. 10 choices seems like a lot
 

JTL2ATC

Member
Messages
48
Thanks for the response. There are only 6 people in my class beginning mid-Nov. 10 choices seems like a lot
You won’t have 10 to choose from. At most, you’ll have 6, plus 2 alternates. More than likely it’ll be 3-4 facilities with 1-2 slots each. After evaluations, the number of people who washed will be the number of Slots that drop off the bottom of the list. They’ll give a more detailed explanation in basics.
 

knguyen36

Member
Messages
6
You won’t have 10 to choose from. At most, you’ll have 6, plus 2 alternates. More than likely it’ll be 3-4 facilities with 1-2 slots each. After evaluations, the number of people who washed will be the number of Slots that drop off the bottom of the list. They’ll give a more detailed explanation in basics.
Thank you for the information, I was just curious as not many people have posted about travel to their new facility or any of the locations provided to them. Much appreciated
 

32andBelow

Forum Sage
Messages
609
Thank you for the information, I was just curious as not many people have posted about travel to their new facility or any of the locations provided to them. Much appreciated
It’s a busy time when your driving to your new facility. Also people may not want to dox themselves.
 

njeezy08

Trusted Contributor
Messages
143
Take your academics seriously and study, but also don't let low test scores (especially in non radar) let you think that you cant do it. I had some of the lowest test scores in my class for non radar (30's and 60's) and still had a good enough scores in Radar and others that I got to go where I wanted. Also don't focus on what other people scores are so much. The person who was #1 in my class by a wide margin throughout the whole experience ended up failing 1st day of evals, so it can happen to anyone.
 

Hyooz

Member
Messages
14
In the same class as NN9419 and PlainPlane and I definitely agree with what has been said so far. Just wanted to add a bit based on what I saw from the folks that didn't make it.

We graduated 14/17 - only 17 because one guy quit day 1 of Non-Radar. Like NN said, they threw everything at us and he panicked and resigned too quickly. Obviouly it's impossible to say for sure one way or another what would have happened if he stayed, but quitting means you have a 0% chance. See it through, the worst that'll happen is you get paid for a few more weeks of being in OKC.

One of the things I saw from one of the others that didn't make it was never, ever owning his mistakes and misconceptions - with a hint of refusing to ask for help. Frequent arguments with the instructors about interpretations of certain rules/procedures, complaining about unfair grading on practice runs, claims of having clean grading sheets after the later problems, that sort of thing. Take what they say seriously, ask questions to clarify, get an understanding of why you're wrong when you feel like you should be right.

Then, y'know, try not to panic when you sit down for evals. You can be cool as a cucumber during problems but lord those evals are a different story.
 

Rodsmash

Trusted Contributor
FAA
Messages
73
Facility
ZJX Jacksonville Center
Clean grading sheets are the biggest lie at the acadamy. I legit only had one the entire time. The last couple radar problems I ran were full sheets. Best advice I can think of is to read those and do your best not to make the same mistakes again.
 
Top