OU's Air Traffic Management Program Sets Students Up for Success


OU's Air Traffic Management Program Sets Students Up for Success

Andrew Cook always knew he wanted to go into the air traffic control field. While his passion and purpose were evident, where he’d get his education wasn’t so clear.

While finishing high school, Cook took concurrent classes from another university with a reputable aviation department. Another highly ranked school was close to his hometown of Chicago. After visiting a number of FAA-approved Air Traffic-Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI) schools, however, the choice became easy.

“I looked at all of the approved schools, and saved the University of Oklahoma for my last visit,” Cook said. “I attended a football game and toured the campus. I loved the experience and the atmosphere here, and I knew OU was where I wanted to be.”

Cook said OU’s proximity to the FAA Academy played a part in his decision, but the Big 12 college atmosphere and small class sizes in the aviation program were what won him over.

“This program is very personalized,” said Cook, who graduated from OU’s Air Traffic Management program in August. “It’s a one-on-one experience.”

OU’s Air Traffic Management program is one of about 30 programs that are FAA-approved AT-CTI schools. Graduates of AT-CTI schools are eligible to bypass the Air Traffic Basics Course, which is the first five weeks of qualifications training at the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City.

“I looked at all of the approved schools, and saved the University of Oklahoma for my last visit,” Cook said. “I attended a football game and toured the campus. I loved the experience and the atmosphere here, and I knew OU was where I wanted to be.”

Steve West, AT-CTI program director for OU’s School of Aviation Studies, said OU’s Air Traffic Management program is designed not only to prepare students to get hired, but to give them tools to help them succeed once they settle into a career.

With the FAA expecting to lose nearly half its air traffic controllers to retirement in the next few years, now is a great time to major in air traffic management at OU, West said. OU’s program also includes a built-in business minor, giving students an edge in the job market.

“It’s not just air traffic control, it’s so much more than that,” West said. “Our program provides training in every possible ATC venue.”

In addition to training in air traffic control, students leave prepared to work in other ATC areas, such as airline dispatching, airport management, airport safety and many other FAA-related jobs.

“We’re doing much more than the FAA requires of us,” West said. “Even if students decide not to apply with the FAA or don’t get hired, they have many more options.”

Students in the Air Traffic Management program get individualized treatment, with class and lab sizes kept below 18 students. They also have the benefit of training at OU’s Max Westheimer Airport, located about 20 minutes from OU’s main campus, which has a Federal Contract Air Traffic Control Tower that provides class D ATC services 365 days per year. Students also receive hands-on experience in OU’s state-of-the-art air traffic control simulation labs.

“Our students are getting a well-rounded bachelor’s degree from a top-ranked school, along with intense simulation training in air traffic control. Our students are better prepared when they get to the FAA Academy and historically do better.

“OU really is the best of both worlds,” West added. “You get a great education in a small class setting, but you get the experience of being a part of a large campus and all it has to offer. In the end, you finish with a degree from a very well respected university.”

Cook, who works as an assistant in OU’s air traffic control lab, is about to enter the FAA hiring process. He said he feels fully prepared to start a career as an air traffic controller.

“Now that I’ve lived here almost four years, it feels very comfortable moving to the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City to continue my education,” Cook said. “I’ve received awesome instruction, and I’m ready to get the ball rolling.”

Contact us at (405) 325-7231 or visit our website to learn more about the Air Traffic Management program at the University of Oklahoma.

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Tami Althoff

Tami Althoff holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She is a reporter with more than 20 years’ experience working for newspapers, including The Oklahoman. She has covered everything from breaking news to local music and art. She loves sports, especially OU football and basketball games, where she often embarrasses her children by yelling too loudly.