Bartow Municipal Airport plans to open a traditional, as well as remote air traffic control tower training academy in January,2023. This training center is the creation of the Washington Consulting Group (WCG), provides aerospace and air traffic management services. WCG is known in the industry as the company that led the development of the air traffic control training program used by the FAA today.

The national shortage of air traffic controllers has been an ongoing problem due to a recent wave of retirements, and the lack of training occurring during COVID limitations, combined with the overall increase in aviation volume. Currently, there are only two main pathways into an air traffic controller career – through the Federal Aviation Administration’s Air Traffic Controller and Control Tower Operator (CTO) Certificate Program or by training provided through U.S. Military service.

“While college degree programs around the nation offer instruction in Air Traffic Control, they do not offer an FAA Control Tower Operator (CTO) Certification upon graduation, which is required,” said Armando Chappelli, WCG’s CEO. “Graduates of the academy can be federally certified air traffic controllers upon completion of the 10-month technical program and ready to be employed anywhere in the U.S.,” Chappelli added. “With the expansion of digital remote towers around the world, we recruited WCG’s President, Nicole Valentine, to bring her ingenuity, technical savvy, and energy to structure a truly unique ATC Center of Excellence.”

Bartow Municipal Airport is unique because it is a non-federally controlled tower airport that is locally operated, allowing for private sector air traffic control training to occur. Additionally, the Washington Consulting Group is partnering with Polk County School System’s Workforce Development Program to establish a long-term apprentice pipeline into the career field.

The academy will enroll 64 students a year at capacity, and an additional 40 students are projected to be enrolled in ramp control as well as urban airspace planning programs. Courses in this field will assist in establishing the airspace architecture needed to incorporate drones into the U.S.’s existing airspace framework as a career.

“The launch in Bartow once again showcases WCG’s premier abilities and innovative approach to air traffic technical training, “commented Glen Martin, Vice President for Training (RET) Federal Aviation Administration.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the average annual salary for an air traffic controller is $127,920 nationwide. With no formal college education required, a recent high school graduate can enter this high-demand and high-paying field approximately one year after graduation.