Offered Atlanta, NYC, and San Diego TRACON

lowapproach

Epic Member
Oct 29, 2010
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WV
There seems to be a received wisdom around here that it's best to start at a low-level tower if possible, get your CPC and preserve your FAA job before moving up to the bigger facilities. I suppose there's some truth in that, but here's the other side to that, and unsurprisingly the other side mostly concerns money.

When you get your pay raises, they are within your pay band. If you get a presidential pay raise of 1% at the beginning of the year and you're a D2, you don't keep that extra 1% when you promote to D3; you go to the bottom of the band awaiting the next pay raise. If you work 10 years at an ATC-8 tower receiving 1% raises every year and check out at an ATC-12 center in year 12, you will be making less money than the guy who started at the ATC-12 center 4 years ago and checked out a year before you did. Every year counts towards your retirement calculation - for now, FERS annuities are 1.7% for the first 20 years and 1% for every year after, multiplied by your highest three years of base salary.

Your base salary also has a lot of impact on your retirement savings account, the TSP. Obviously, it's easier to put aside the contribution limit of $18,000 in 2015 if you're making $100,000 than if you're making $60,000. Your employer matching is based on your salary as well - you get dollar for dollar equal to 3% of your pay, and 50 cents per dollar for the next 2% of your pay, provided you put in at least 5% of your salary every pay period. Those extra few dollars a paycheck in matching can add up a lot over the course of a 25-year career.

Places like A80 and N90 move the airplanes that the airlines care about, and if you don't already know it, the FAA works for the airlines and everyone else gets served as an afterthought. Busier facilities where it is hard to certify tend to serve locations important to the airlines - NYC, Atlanta, Chicago, etc. The slower and less relevant to the NAS you are, the less overtime you will see. Yes, six-day workweeks get old, and you might burn a little more sick leave to stay sane. At ZDC, I have never made less than $15,000 in OT a year, and during 2012, I made around $55,000.

Lastly, training sucks for everyone, everywhere. You don't know what you're doing, and your trainers are going to yell at you. You might even wash out. HR knows that an ATC-12 facility is a hard place to certify, especially for new blood, and if you don't get into a fistfight with a trainer or have a DUI that first year, you're probably going to get another chance in the FAA somewhere. But if you don't make it at an ATC-6 or -7, there might not be another chance at ATC because there just aren't that many places less challenging than the facility that washed you out. Take a chance on yourself, because you can afford it at this stage in your career.
 
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morajor13

Trusted Contributor
Jan 20, 2015
788
7
18
There seems to be a received wisdom around here that it's best to start at a low-level tower if possible, get your CPC and preserve your FAA job before moving up to the bigger facilities. I suppose there's some truth in that, but here's the other side to that, and unsurprisingly they mostly concern money.

When you get your pay raises, they are within your pay band. If you get a presidential pay raise of 1% at the beginning of the year and you're a D2, you don't keep that extra 1% when you promote to D3; you go to the bottom of the band awaiting the next pay raise. If you work 10 years at an ATC-8 tower receiving 1% raises every year and check out at an ATC-12 center in year 12, you will be making less money than the guy who started at the ATC-12 center 4 years ago and checked out a year before you did. Every year counts towards your retirement calculation - for now, FERS annuities are 1.7% for the first 20 years and 1% for every year after, multiplied by your highest three years of base salary.

Your base salary also has a lot of impact on your retirement savings account, the TSP. Obviously, it's easier to put aside the contribution limit of $18,000 in 2015 if you're making $100,000 than if you're making $60,000. Your employer matching is based on your salary as well - you get dollar for dollar equal to 3% of your pay, and 50 cents per dollar for the next 2% of your pay, provided you put in at least 5% of your salary every pay period. Those extra few dollars a paycheck in matching can add up a lot over the course of a 25-year career.

Places like A80 and N90 move the airplanes that the airlines care about, and if you don't already know it, the FAA works for the airlines and everyone else gets served as an afterthought. Busier facilities where it is hard to certify tend to serve locations important to the airlines - NYC, Atlanta, Chicago, etc. The slower and less relevant to the NAS you are, the less overtime you will see. Yes, six-day workweeks get old, and you might burn a little more sick leave to stay sane. At ZDC, I have never made less than $15,000 in OT a year, and during 2012, I made around $55,000.

Lastly, training sucks for everyone, everywhere. You don't know what you're doing, and your trainers are going to yell at you. You might even wash out. HR knows that an ATC-12 facility is a hard place to certify, especially for new blood, and if you don't get into a fistfight with a trainer or have a DUI that first year, you're probably going to get another chance in the FAA somewhere. But if you don't make it at an ATC-6 or -7, there might not be another chance at ATC because there just aren't that many places less challenging than the facility that washed you out. Take a chance on yourself, because you can afford it at this stage in your career.
Great post.
 

Ramstar13

Trusted Member
Dec 2, 2008
373
5
18
Mexico City
ATL is back on top over ORD this year per ATADS. The SWA/TRS merger took away some ops but now SWA is filling in the holes and summer traffic is huge boost.
 

BrewnATC

Epic Member
Jan 28, 2015
2,398
36
48
Ass deep in a folding chair
There seems to be a received wisdom around here that it's best to start at a low-level tower if possible, get your CPC and preserve your FAA job before moving up to the bigger facilities. I suppose there's some truth in that, but here's the other side to that, and unsurprisingly the other side mostly concerns money.

When you get your pay raises, they are within your pay band. If you get a presidential pay raise of 1% at the beginning of the year and you're a D2, you don't keep that extra 1% when you promote to D3; you go to the bottom of the band awaiting the next pay raise. If you work 10 years at an ATC-8 tower receiving 1% raises every year and check out at an ATC-12 center in year 12, you will be making less money than the guy who started at the ATC-12 center 4 years ago and checked out a year before you did. Every year counts towards your retirement calculation - for now, FERS annuities are 1.7% for the first 20 years and 1% for every year after, multiplied by your highest three years of base salary.

Your base salary also has a lot of impact on your retirement savings account, the TSP. Obviously, it's easier to put aside the contribution limit of $18,000 in 2015 if you're making $100,000 than if you're making $60,000. Your employer matching is based on your salary as well - you get dollar for dollar equal to 3% of your pay, and 50 cents per dollar for the next 2% of your pay, provided you put in at least 5% of your salary every pay period. Those extra few dollars a paycheck in matching can add up a lot over the course of a 25-year career.

Places like A80 and N90 move the airplanes that the airlines care about, and if you don't already know it, the FAA works for the airlines and everyone else gets served as an afterthought. Busier facilities where it is hard to certify tend to serve locations important to the airlines - NYC, Atlanta, Chicago, etc. The slower and less relevant to the NAS you are, the less overtime you will see. Yes, six-day workweeks get old, and you might burn a little more sick leave to stay sane. At ZDC, I have never made less than $15,000 in OT a year, and during 2012, I made around $55,000.

Lastly, training sucks for everyone, everywhere. You don't know what you're doing, and your trainers are going to yell at you. You might even wash out. HR knows that an ATC-12 facility is a hard place to certify, especially for new blood, and if you don't get into a fistfight with a trainer or have a DUI that first year, you're probably going to get another chance in the FAA somewhere. But if you don't make it at an ATC-6 or -7, there might not be another chance at ATC because there just aren't that many places less challenging than the facility that washed you out. Take a chance on yourself, because you can afford it at this stage in your career.
The choices are made for us at this stage. I'm going to a 7 guaranteed, since that was all that was on my list. Those with the longer lists will be going 4-6. OP is guaranteed a 12. Both arguments that you reference in your post are very much valid, I think it lies on each particular individual to weigh the importance of money, stress, work life balance, location etc.
 

ADub

Senior Member
Mar 8, 2015
278
2
18
Maybe reply to the survey email and tell them you are interested in Alaska if there are slots. Maybe you'll get lucky. Worst that they can do is say no.

Hopefully I read that right. It's late. I'm old.
I didn't need to.. an "Air Traffic Staffing" email contacted me asking if I was still interested, and to include 4 Alaska facilities (all minus center) with my list of 21 in a reply by email. :) It'll be nice, but I'm still happy at any of the 18 out of 21 non-CA facilities on my original list.. it's an added bonus to get Alaska thrown in the mix.
 

phillyman2633

Epic Member
May 13, 2010
4,205
88
48
International waters
www.drudgereport.com
There seems to be a received wisdom around here that it's best to start at a low-level tower if possible, get your CPC and preserve your FAA job before moving up to the bigger facilities. I suppose there's some truth in that, but here's the other side to that, and unsurprisingly the other side mostly concerns money.
Honest to god, this is probably one of the best posts I have ever read on this site. By order of being the self-proclaimed Ron Jeremy of StuckMic, I hereby award thee the title of Peter North.
 

lowapproach

Epic Member
Oct 29, 2010
1,316
33
48
WV
Honest to god, this is probably one of the best posts I have ever read on this site. By order of being the self-proclaimed Ron Jeremy of StuckMic, I hereby award thee the title of Peter North.
I'm overcompensating for the post wherein I said the FAA would never again hire OTS because it had a VRA and CTI backlog sufficient to cover their hiring needs for the next ten years.
 

nhstadt

Epic Member
Mar 24, 2011
2,980
57
48
south "Murica
There seems to be a received wisdom around here that it's best to start at a low-level tower if possible, get your CPC and preserve your FAA job before moving up to the bigger facilities. I suppose there's some truth in that, but here's the other side to that, and unsurprisingly the other side mostly concerns money.

When you get your pay raises, they are within your pay band. If you get a presidential pay raise of 1% at the beginning of the year and you're a D2, you don't keep that extra 1% when you promote to D3; you go to the bottom of the band awaiting the next pay raise. If you work 10 years at an ATC-8 tower receiving 1% raises every year and check out at an ATC-12 center in year 12, you will be making less money than the guy who started at the ATC-12 center 4 years ago and checked out a year before you did. Every year counts towards your retirement calculation - for now, FERS annuities are 1.7% for the first 20 years and 1% for every year after, multiplied by your highest three years of base salary.

Your base salary also has a lot of impact on your retirement savings account, the TSP. Obviously, it's easier to put aside the contribution limit of $18,000 in 2015 if you're making $100,000 than if you're making $60,000. Your employer matching is based on your salary as well - you get dollar for dollar equal to 3% of your pay, and 50 cents per dollar for the next 2% of your pay, provided you put in at least 5% of your salary every pay period. Those extra few dollars a paycheck in matching can add up a lot over the course of a 25-year career.

Places like A80 and N90 move the airplanes that the airlines care about, and if you don't already know it, the FAA works for the airlines and everyone else gets served as an afterthought. Busier facilities where it is hard to certify tend to serve locations important to the airlines - NYC, Atlanta, Chicago, etc. The slower and less relevant to the NAS you are, the less overtime you will see. Yes, six-day workweeks get old, and you might burn a little more sick leave to stay sane. At ZDC, I have never made less than $15,000 in OT a year, and during 2012, I made around $55,000.

Lastly, training sucks for everyone, everywhere. You don't know what you're doing, and your trainers are going to yell at you. You might even wash out. HR knows that an ATC-12 facility is a hard place to certify, especially for new blood, and if you don't get into a fistfight with a trainer or have a DUI that first year, you're probably going to get another chance in the FAA somewhere. But if you don't make it at an ATC-6 or -7, there might not be another chance at ATC because there just aren't that many places less challenging than the facility that washed you out. Take a chance on yourself, because you can afford it at this stage in your career.
OP, I was in the exact same situation as you not too long ago.... All VFR tower experience (and a few years of not working traffic rustiness on top of that) and got sent to N90. Long story short I washed out. I did my best, but the place is a beast and it just wasn't good enough. Looking back, a lack of confidence in what I was doing due to having zero radar knowledge aside from the schoolhouse probably had something to do with it more so than a complete lack of necessary skills. I ended up doing the nest thing, it sucks, its nerve wracking not knowing where you are gonna be or even if you are going to have a job in the coming months, but it ended up working out for the better for me. Bust your ass, Study your ass off, and work with the same confidence you would work with if you were assigned a VFR tower. If it don't work out, no big deal, probably off to the next place. I have yet to hear of someone washing from a Center or Big Tracon and not being retained. Fact of the matter is some people's brains are wired better for quick thinking seat of the pants tower traffic and some are wired for the calculated analytical mess that is those big radar facilities, and the FAA realizes that, especially if you already have proven your ability elsewhere.

Ass far as what low approach said, there is definitely truth to that. Take a crack at it if it doesn't work out its not necessarily the end of the world. That being said, I fit into the money isn't everything category. I'm definitely much happier where I am now, no OT unless I want it (its usually available if I do, I'll take an extra 2 now and again), and I get to have a life outside of work, which is nice if you like to remain sane. Best case, you like it and make it, worst case you wash and 99 percent end up somewhere else unless you are a total shitbag. Or hell you make it, don't like it, you ERR somewhere with some badass experience on your resume. any ATM is gonna see CPC at a 12 tracon and boom you are at the top of the list in most cases. Then you just got to wait on the release date.

Good luck.
 

SnoopDog

Senior Member
Jun 11, 2012
174
4
18
I'm overcompensating for the post wherein I said the FAA would never again hire OTS because it had a VRA and CTI backlog sufficient to cover their hiring needs for the next ten years.
You said that and the very next day the hammer was dropped.