Feds give Metro green light for air controller program; College among 8 to get coveted FAA designation

Metropolitan State College has received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to create an air traffic controller program.

The school has received the coveted Air Traffic Controller Collegiate Training Initiative designation for its Aviation and Aerospace Science Department. Metro was one of eight colleges and universities to receive the special CTI status, from 19 institutions qualified for the program nationally.

The FAA offers preferential hiring to students who successfully complete the degree program. Of the 1,815 controllers hired in fiscal year 2007, about 800 were graduates of CTI schools.

"This designation will catapult our Metro State graduates into the field quickly," said Jeff Forrest, chairman of the department. "Our students will be eligible to bypass the first five weeks of initial qualification training at the FAA Academy because of their college education."

The FAA could face a huge shortage of air traffic controllers over the next decade. The agency estimates that it will need 17,000 more air traffic controllers to replace the professionals who were hired in the 1980s and are now nearing mandated retirement.

Metro's Aviation and Aerospace Science Department has 500 students and currently offers just one air traffic control class.