Embry-Riddle takes lead on aviation training research

By Saul Saenz, Volusia County Reporter
Last Updated: Tuesday, August 16, 2016, 5:16 PM EDT

The Federal Aviation Administration is calling on Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to help change the way air traffic controllers train and do their jobs.

Embry-Riddle in Daytona Beach will be the one of the first FAA Centers of Excellence.

  • Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University an FAA Centers of Excellence
  • Will work on changing the way aviation professionals train
  • New NextGen is latest air traffic control technology

Embry Riddle is already recognized by aviation experts for teaching the latest in aviation, training pilots, air traffic controllers and other aviation professionals.

But that training is based on old technology, like radar.

"They are trained like they were decades ago," said aviation expert and Embry riddle program director, Alan Stolzer.

The new technology, NextGen, uses satellite-based computers.

"Not have air traffic controllers but have air traffic monitors that will monitor the system,” said Sid McGuirk, assistant program director. “The computers will make a lot of the decisions."

Over the next few years, Embry-Riddle also head up research and development for training aviation professionals. The new methods are focus on human performance, modeling and simulation.

The FAA will invest $5 million into the partnership over the next five years.

The FAA says the industry will lose more than 85 percent of its 22,000 air traffic control workforce in the coming years.

That’s why it’s important to get new students, like air traffic control major April Barnett up-to-date on new technology.

"You’ve just got to be very, very precise in everything that you're doing and very aware of everything that's going on,” Barnett said of the current air traffic control technology.

It's been estimated the aviation industry will hire 1,400 air traffic controllers next year, then a thousand air traffic controllers every year for several years after that.

Barnett is familiar with NextGen and is eager to learn more.

"Personally, no, I don't think it's intimidating. It's just a new thing to learn," said Barnett.

Barnett said some of her friends have already taken jobs as traffic controllers in major airports, earning $143,000 a year, straight out of college.