The University of Oklahoma's Outreach division has won the largest services contract in OU's history, worth $132 million over five years, officials said Thursday.
The contract allows OU to continue a long relationship with the Federal Aviation Administration, providing for Air Traffic Instructional Support services through the FAA Air Traffic Academy, University Outreach Vice President James Pappas said. The university has helped the FAA academy train air traffic controllers at the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center in Oklahoma City since 1981.
The OU department's 326 employees run two shifts in the training of about 2,500 air traffic controllers each year. The Oklahoma City-based center is the largest concentration of U.S. Department of Transportation employees outside the Washington, D.C., area, officials said.
Of those employees, about 190 are instructors who are retired air traffic controllers who transfer to the area from across the country, program director Cynthia "C" Haley-Seikel said. The balance of the staff consists of courseware developers, instructional systems design specialists, educational specialists, computer systems analysts and computer programmers, as well as a highly qualified support and administrative staff.
The bulk of the contract will go to pay salaries, she said. Even though so many of the instructors are transplants from out of state, their salaries seep into the local economy because they usually stay at least six months at a time, if not longer. "A lot of them say, 'OK, I'll be here six or seven months,' and five years later they're still saying the same thing," she said.
Pappas said he was proud of "the significant impact this contract has on the local economy in terms of jobs and infrastructure. "
It's been several years since the contract was last awarded. At its expiration, OU was given extensions as the new contract was placed for open bidding. The new contract takes effect Aug. 1.
"It put a lot of stress on the employees, knowing their employment was for six months at a time," Haley-Seikel said. "So there were quite a few people who were holding their breath, waiting for this announcement, me included. "
"Receiving the largest training grant in OU's history is a great tribute to the quality of the faculty and staff at the university," OU President David L. Boren said in a prepared statement. "Vice President for University Outreach Jim Pappas and his entire team have made a great contribution not only to the university but to the economy of Oklahoma as this program will bring thousands of air traffic controllers from all over the country to train in our state. "