Degradation of ATC Training in Oklahoma City Leads to 50% Failure Rate

Michael Cash

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Apr 10, 2014
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Degradation of ATC Training in Oklahoma City Leads to 50% Failure Rate of Latest Air Traffic Control Students. (Enroute Class #XX01X lost 50% on 4/4/2014)

Well, there's good news and bad news; The bad news is that a student's chances of successfully completing the ATC Training course(s) here in Oklahoma City has decreased, the good news is that until the FAA puts their house in order, ANYBODY who fails here has a legitimate reason to file a grievance and return for training, and it's not complicated. Hand-in-hand with the rampant conflict of interest by the FAA choosing a privately-owned aerospace company to train Security-Sensitive Government employees, the FAA are now in sync with this corporation (Raytheon), to force the ATC Instructors here to work double-shifts (at straight pay by the way - no compensation) to train our new FAA ATC Students. This is simply a no-brainer; the student trained at 7am by Instructor X is going to get better training than the student getting trained by (the same) Instructor X at 1130pm. Although, to be fair, Instructor X may be coming back at 7am after working an 18 or 19 hour day just the day before, so the training here now may be equally crappy all day long, and not at the fault of our instructors.

FORCED to work double-shifts? To be clear, for the record (Raytheon has them, trust me), the instructors can't legally be forced to work double shifts, but that's like saying the sweatshops in Asia simply take "volunteers" to work 20 hour days for 33 cents an hour. Most of us here are retired FAA Air Traffic Controllers, forced to leave the Government on or near our 56th birthday. That's part of the deal when you're an Air Traffic Controller, we are told that on day one. Some of us plan for this early retirement, and some us don't. Well, most of us don't. While some Instructors here are paying for their Summer homes and Harleys, most of us are sending money back home to feed our spouses and children. So when we interview for these jobs, it's made clear that there are 500 jobs available for 5000 applicants, and they would "appreciate" people who are willing to work long or double shifts. It's not surprising that those of us who like to eat and keep our families off the streets are very agreeable to get the job. And one of the ways the the FAA and Raytheon "appreciate" us is to pay us a flat hourly wage regardless of the time worked. No compensation for extra hours or night shifts, and forget about benefits.

"Downsizing" the US Government? Doesn't that sound great, Dear Taxpayer!?! Less of your tax dollars going to fund an over-inflated Federal Government? Yes, it SOUNDS great, but it's (another) lie propagated onto the American Public. The general formula is that for every (tax) $1.00 spent on a Government employee (including benefits and EVERYTHING), when we "award" a contract to a private company to streamline the Government, it then takes approximately $1.50 of your tax dollars to fund that EXACT position. The primary difference is that the same job has little or no benefits, very little job security, and the employee is now outside the boundaries of being a Federal Employee, so the rules no longer apply. You get a much less happy employee for 1.5 times the previous rate! So where does that more than 50% tax-dollar suck go? Let's just say that the Golden Parachutes being stuffed for the Muckity-$!#%cks at Raytheon, are adequately funded by YOU. Yes, when they choose the color of their new yachts they really should be sending all of us thank you cards.

Loopholes. When I was a kid it was pretty clear that we had a 40 hour work week and that overtime meant being paid 1.5x the regular rate. While things didn't always work out this way, it was pretty standard if we weren't in management on salary expected to put in the extra time for our higher pay check. Raytheon, in cahoots with the FAA, are abusing loopholes in the law, and attempting to change more laws, that will allow them to more openly force longer work weeks. Should YOU be alarmed? You'd better be. If they can do this with us, how long before your employer can "appreciate" you working a 50, 60, or 80 hour work week? And by apprecaite, I mean pick candidates for positions based on their willingness to do anything for a job. But the point of this article is not about the criminal abuse of the law by our Federal Government and the corrupt relationship(s) with Private Industry, although I would greatly appreciate it if someone would look into that. :)

The point here is that we (the FAA Academy ATC Instructors) LOVE Air Traffic Control, we want to continue to create a top-notch ATC Community, and we would be thrilled to see a 100% success rate for all the new ATC Students. While that 100% isn't realistic (some kids don't study, others just don't "get" it), we can certainly do better than a 50% failure rate. That is what we dealt with 20 years ago, and it's not progress. Once upon a time we failed 50% of the students here at the FAA Academy, and ONLY 50% of those actually made it as controllers. A one in four success rate for Air Traffic Controllers is an incredible waste of your tax dollars, not to mention that this isn't a career path you really want influenced by the lowest bidder, especially when we aren't even supposed to allow Raytheon to buy us even a pencil the day before we start work here as contractors (conflict of interest). At one point we had an educatiuonal institution handling this same training issue instead of Raytheon, although it was still at that special tax $1.50 (per Government $1.00) rate. That worked better, but nothing is perfect, even putting this training where it belongs, in the hands of the FAA, ONLY.

I don't want a bloated Government any more than you do, but let's be realistic. Most of us here are getting paid $60K (or more) in retirement money from the Federal Government, and we're working for another $50K (or so), funded by the Federal Government at the rate of $75K or more in tax dollars. But removing every other factor mentioned above, the most significant fact remains; The young, new, Air Traffic Control Traing Developmentals leaving here successfully, are not getting the level of training they deserve - that the general flying public deserves. We regulate how long truckers can drive, pilots can fly, and Air Traffic Controllers can work on position. Do you really want a new generation of potential Air Traffic Control Specialists spending time with attorneys to sue their way back into school because they failed due to this issue? Do you want the level of training to continue to degrade? We don't. Air Traffic Control is simply a fantastic career, and we want the best people on the scopes, in the towers, and on the radios. Please spread the word that something has gone terribly wrong out here at the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City.

 

phillyman2633

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May 13, 2010
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This guy has a point. Working out in OKC at the Academy for Raytheon, I was told when I got hired that it would be a full-time job. Then I get out there and I find out that "full-time" meant that I would be scheduled for 3 8-hour days and if I wanted to be able to make rent then I'd have to come out on my off shifts and fight over scraps, hope my peers were late to work so I could take their shift.

The way it worked: If you don't sign in by start time on the dot, your shift automatically goes to anyone who's waiting there who wasn't scheduled. So basically, you get up at 5am, get showered, dressed for work, drive all the way to work, and sit there and hope that someone is 1 second late or calls out. And yes, I mean one second, there were times when RPOs are running down the hallway at 6:59:55 saying "Wait,wait, I'm here I'm here!" but their pen doesn't touch the sign-in sheet until 7:00:01, they are late. So then their shift goes to whoever's sitting there trying to "pull" their shift. And by "pull the shift" I mean you get a number in a hat, and they give the shift to whoever's number gets pulled. And if your name doesn't get called, then bitch you just showered and dressed and drove all the f#ck the way to work for nothing. So enjoy your 3 scheduled days, you non-senior bitch.

Working for Raytheon was a f#cking joke. Some weeks I'd work 5 shifts in a row because you have to pull shifts to make your 40 a week to pay the bills...so yes, that's 7a-midnight, home for 4 hours sleep, 7a-midnight, home for 4 hours sleep, 7a-3:30p. Yes, 5 day weekends are sweet, but jesus christ do you get burned out.

And that's just for RPOs who sit there with their thumb up their ass and make 4 computer entries over the 40 minutes they're on position. I feel for anyone who has to teach a curriculum after working a double-double, and even worse to the trainee being graded by said person.
 
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charliezuluatc

Guest
This is nothing new. When WCG and OU ran things, they were accused of similar sins.
 

BadPassportPhoto

Trusted Member
Jun 13, 2011
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This guy has a point. Working out in OKC at the Academy for Raytheon, I was told when I got hired that it would be a full-time job. Then I get out there and I find out that "full-time" meant that I would be scheduled for 3 8-hour days and if I wanted to be able to make rent then I'd have to come out on my off shifts and fight over scraps, hope my peers were late to work so I could take their shift.

The way it worked: If you don't sign in by start time on the dot, your shift automatically goes to anyone who's waiting there who wasn't scheduled. So basically, you get up at 5am, get showered, dressed for work, drive all the way to work, and sit there and hope that someone is 1 second late or calls out. And yes, I mean one second, there were times when RPOs are running down the hallway at 6:59:55 saying "Wait,wait, I'm here I'm here!" but their pen doesn't touch the sign-in sheet until 7:00:01, they are late. So then their shift goes to whoever's sitting there trying to "pull" their shift. And by "pull the shift" I mean you get a number in a hat, and they give the shift to whoever's number gets pulled. And if your name doesn't get called, then bitch you just showered and dressed and drove all the f#ck the way to work for nothing. So enjoy your 3 scheduled days, you non-senior bitch.

Working for Raytheon was a f#cking joke. Some weeks I'd work 5 shifts in a row because you have to pull shifts to make your 40 a week to pay the bills...so yes, that's 7a-midnight, home for 4 hours sleep, 7a-midnight, home for 4 hours sleep, 7a-3:30p. Yes, 5 day weekends are sweet, but jesus christ do you get burned out.

And that's just for RPOs who sit there with their thumb up their ass and make 4 computer entries over the 40 minutes they're on position. I feel for anyone who has to teach a curriculum after working a double-double, and even worse to the trainee being graded by said person.
That sounds insanely shitty. That's all.
 

duranme

Senior Analyst
Nov 3, 2009
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New hires at the academy arent BUEs though, theyre not covered by union grievance policies until at their first facility.

So how exactly are you expecting them to file any sort of grievance?
 

psykomagician

Junior Member
Jan 10, 2014
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This isn't about students - its about contract instructors and RPOs at the Academy, and whether they are properly compensated for the hours worked.

If the instructors are in fact employees of Raytheon (as opposed to independent contractors), then based on the original posting, they have grounds for a wage and hours complaint under the Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA). That being said, there might be some b.s. administrative process they have to go through first. Raytheon might try to tie their hands by claiming the instructors' only and exclusive remedy is arbitration, with the arbitrator picked by Raytheon. So they just need to get a good labor attorney.

However, if the instructors are classified as independent contractors to Raytheon, they are F***ked under FLSA. The way out of that box is to show that Raytheon controls everything, down to what they say in the classroom. Controls time, materials, all the conditions of work. Problem there is Raytheon says that's not our materials, that's the FAA's and FAA standards in the classroom.

Moral of the story: Be really careful and read those employment agreements and understand what they mean. 'Cause once you sign, they've got you by the short-hairs and its really hard to get out of the box and get a fair shake for your labor. If they try and go to the press, they would probably violate a gag clause baked into the employment agreement. And since Oklahoma is an "at will" employer, once Raytheon smells a rat (and the original poster is at risk, as Raytheon could sick its lawyers on whoever runs StuckMic and force him/her to divulge user names and associated e-mails under a slander complaint), that poor sucker would be gone in less than the time it takes to say "Cleared to land."
 

planetalkerkp

Senior Member
Jun 15, 2008
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I went through enroute in 1979. The instructors were govt. employees and our class had a 50% failure rate. I don't think the instructors are the problem.
 
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charliezuluatc

Guest
Amen to that! Raytheons labor issues are Raytheons employee issues. They can form a union if they want to, I doubt it will happen.
 

Jax

Senior Analyst
Nov 17, 2010
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50% failure rate at OKC? and this is news why? My class of 18 had exactly a 50% failure rate 23 years ago, and historically that's about the right number.

Considering that out of the 50% that do make it past OKC, there is still some that don't make it on the field, I'd say that 50% washout rate perhaps should be higher, and weed out the ones that slip through.
 

UNDgrad06

Epic Member
Dec 8, 2010
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Blame the company because OKC instructors are willing to work 18 hour days without OT. They are not forced to work them, as stated in the article and aren't there laws regarding OT and such. And don't compare them to sweat shops please, this is America. Sounds to me like basically an ATC'er who was probably divorced multiple times and has no money and is no forced to work for real, and is complaining. Don't blame the company because you made poor financial decisions in your life and you "feel" like you have to work 18 hour days on top of the pension you already get. Unreal.

Honestly 50% at OKC is great IMO. Alot better than 50% at the facility, which is what is has been ever since the FAA started training to succeed or whatever they call it. This will probably just get us better controllers at the facility, so I am all for it.
 

TAJ

Trusted Contributor
May 16, 2010
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I'll not touch the legal issues brought up here, but I have to question those saying that the pass rate was 50% 20 years ago, therefore it is fine now. The classes now are generally being made up of 50-75% ex military controllers, and the rest college students who studied similar curriculum throughout their programs (many programs employ a similar simulator with an identical runway configuration). Hires 20+ years ago were mostly OTS with no experience or knowledge of ATC (please correct me if this is wrong). We are also in the internet age where rules in the 7110.65 can be looked up in seconds- as well as in depth discussions of the application of those rules. Which should work to the advantage of every new hire (ots/cti/vra). If we are stuck at the exact same failure rate with significant advantages over past applicants, I have to believe something changed. I know people are fixated on the "have it or you don't" factor, but arriving at the same figure (50%) with a different equation seems strange to me.
 

lowapproach

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Oct 29, 2010
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It sounds like this guy has some kind of arbitration clause in his contract that would cause him far greater hardship than it's worth to sue Raytheon for violating FLSA (e.g., no actions brought as a class, parties agree to settle disputes before an arbiter who lives in a mud hut on the Nepalese side of Mount Everest), so he's trying to embarrass or pressure the FAA into modifying Raytheon's behavior.

It might work. I don't think that we're hiring so many applicants that we can afford to lose ~50% at the Academy on a routine basis, but I've been (spectacularly) wrong before.
 

lowapproach

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Oct 29, 2010
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Weren't you the guy that said there would never be OTS hiring then like the next day the FAA said there would be?

And, yes the FAA can afford to lose 50% right up front compared to the back end after the academy. There are 26,000 wanting in.
Yes, I'm that guy. Hence the "(spectacularly)". I still don't think they can long suffer 50% attrition at the Academy, and I also think that the Biographical Questionnaire is likely to be worse than the old civil service exam or the CTI/VRA hiring track for pre-employment screening. I guess we'll know in the next 18-24 months.

The point is not that there won't be more applicants where the last bunch came from, but that the FAA is only prepared to spend so much in a given year on the pre-employment process. There could be 26 million people waiting to be controllers, but if the FAA is only prepared to hire 1,600-1,800 a year, then 1,600-1,800 is the relevant number.
 

StuSEL

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Aug 23, 2009
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You know where.
Are you guys at Raytheon independent contractors, where taxes (FICA and state and federal witholdings) are NOT taken out of your check, or are you official employees of the company? I have a very hard time believing Raytheon would hire you as independent contractors based on the nature of your work, but it could explain a lot about your pay situation.

Are you picking up shifts from trades with other employees, or are you required to work beyond 8 hours? I worked in a 24/7 airline operation and know some of the ins and outs of what can and can't be done to get overtime pay or time and a half. If you know what the law says, you can set yourself up to have a much more enjoyable time at work. If you're volunteering to pick up shifts and what not, you'll be working a lot for that good ol' straight pay. I'm not making suggestions about what you're doing; just asking questions to understand the situation better.
 

lowapproach

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Oct 29, 2010
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1. I think you went wrong last time assuming the FAA's fiscal policies. You assumed that the FAA wasn't willing to spend more on an off the street applicant when it can save itself 5 weeks of salary ( $9.25 and hour) of a brand new employee by skipping basics.

2. I think you are wrong this time in assuming the FAA's fiscal policies. The FAA ran the academy for years washing out 50% and that was before cti and that entire pool of applicants waiting to be hired. The FAA most certainly can do it again and in fact it actually saves them money.

The academy graduate gets a significant pay raise when they move on to their first facility. The FAA starts paying benefits. The academy graduate spends the next one to three years attempting to certify and may pick up a position or two and gets another pay raise. The academy graduate eventually washes out then gets sent to the nest where he goes on to another lower level facility and spends another year to three in training.

For the amount it cost to send an academy graduate that shouldn't have made it to the field the FAA could have hired 10 successful new hires and sent them through OKC. The money up front isn't anything to the agency.
The civil service exam pool was gigantic. It was so large that they could afford to have cutoffs in the 90th+ percentile on the exam for those hired. I don't have good numbers on how many people went through the Academy then, but anecdotally I have heard that they ran day and night classes year-round for seven years after the strike, and processed about 2,500-3,000 new hires a year during that same time.

The FAA expects attrition around 900-1,100 for the next five years at least. We never really caught up to the bust that happened during the White Book. If the FAA's plan is to run the Academy as it ran during the '80s, then it can't hire the numbers it did in the '90s and '00s.
 

Jax

Senior Analyst
Nov 17, 2010
869
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I'll not touch the legal issues brought up here, but I have to question those saying that the pass rate was 50% 20 years ago, therefore it is fine now. The classes now are generally being made up of 50-75% ex military controllers, and the rest college students who studied similar curriculum throughout their programs (many programs employ a similar simulator with an identical runway configuration). Hires 20+ years ago were mostly OTS with no experience or knowledge of ATC (please correct me if this is wrong). We are also in the internet age where rules in the 7110.65 can be looked up in seconds- as well as in depth discussions of the application of those rules. Which should work to the advantage of every new hire (ots/cti/vra). If we are stuck at the exact same failure rate with significant advantages over past applicants, I have to believe something changed. I know people are fixated on the "have it or you don't" factor, but arriving at the same figure (50%) with a different equation seems strange to me.
I guess people are never going to stop with the "ex military and CTI hires are better prospects than OTS hires". Go read the original post on "The truth" thread. The Academy is about passing the GAME they create there, with their own rules. All prior knowledge or experience you may or may not have is totally irrelevant.

You can believe otherwise until the cows come home. It wont change a thing.
 

TAJ

Trusted Contributor
May 16, 2010
643
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I guess people are never going to stop with the "ex military and CTI hires are better prospects than OTS hires". Go read the original post on "The truth" thread. The Academy is about passing the GAME they create there, with their own rules. All prior knowledge or experience you may or may not have is totally irrelevant.

You can believe otherwise until the cows come home. It wont change a thing.
A point I was trying to get across was that all other things being equal (meaning the academy is the same difficulty as before), there should be a higher pass rate now due to availability of information that didn't exist 20 years ago. You can study and familiarize yourself with the information beforehand which I see as a large advantage. This is advantageous to every group of applicants including OTS