NATCA and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) continue to collaborate on various aspects of training. There are a number of initiatives running concurrently aimed at improving training at the FAA Oklahoma City Academy and in facilities.
The largest project over the last year was an Article 114 workgroup called the No-Experience Direct Hire Initial Screen (NDIS) which assessed the training given to those going to high level terminal radar facilities. Its purpose was to provide a collaborative approach for the FAA and NATCA to address the challenges of placing employees with no prior ATC experience into FPL-10 and above terminal radar facilities, starting with New York TRACON (N90). The workgroup visited several facilities and the FAA Academy and found gaps at various points from initial qualification through facility certification.
The first problem identified was the lack of formal training that would allow a person to progress from the current FAA Academy curriculum to training at a high-level terminal radar facility. It was a large leap to go from off the street to the Terminal Skill Enhancement Workshop (TSEW) and then to a terminal radar facility. There was no curriculum to teach the individual to transition to the training programs at our more complex facilities. An additional course was needed between the two. The workgroup began by adding additional classroom and problems to Radar Training Facility (RTF) in order to provide some added foundational learning to prepare them for TSEW. They also adjusted the TSEW curriculum. More classroom training and scenarios were added to prepare for a newly-developed course to be completed at the FAA Academy called the Ten Eleven Twelve Radar Assessment (TETRA). The design of this course will better prepare students by adding problems with higher volume and more complexity to allow for a smoother transition from the FAA Academy to a facility.
Once the new hire completed the redesigned Academy program, they were faced with additional gaps in local facility training when they reached the facility. Most large TRACON training programs were designed for Certified Professional Controller (CPC) transfers, not for all-source new hires. To assist the no-experience new hire, the training is now broken down to smaller pieces, meaning a developmental will focus only on training on a few scopes at one time, then return to class for the next positions. Another challenge was that controllers at the large facilities are not accustomed to training someone with no experience. Training for the instructors was developed with a key piece being human factors. The first classes to reach N90 under this newly-designed program have started arriving at N90 since July 2018 with an expectation for better certification rates.
Ongoing training for CPCs remains a priority as reporting programs identify safety issue trends such as Minimum Vectoring Altitude (MVA) and Minimum IFR Altitude (MIA) events, issues disseminating pilot reports (PIREPs), IFR to VFR separation requirements, and the failure to issue traffic advisories and safety alerts. Just as an athlete does not sit on the couch and expect to get fit, we cannot stand by and hope that these safety issues will fix themselves. Adults learn best when they have input in their training, which is the purpose of the discussion during Instructor-Led Recurrent Training. This way the CPC gets to ask tailored questions and provide input into the course making every class different.
Some projects that are just getting started but that will have a significant impact on future developmental training are the Terminal Stages 2-5 and En Route Stages 2-4 curriculum redesigns.