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CCBC Air Traffic Controller Students Rejected By FAA Over New Hiring Process

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Some students at a local school that trains air traffic controllers are getting bad news: rejections from the FAA because of a new way of hiring.

Community College of Beaver County's program to train air traffic controllers is one of 35 across the nation and is considered one of the best.

Mat Coston has wanted to be an air traffic controller since he was 8. That's why he and his wife moved here, why he spent thousands of dollars on a degree, and now he's been rejected by the FAA's newest evaluation.

"It's hard to say you're mad at something that you don't understand," said Colson. "I just don't understand what they were looking for."

Earlier this year, the FAA decided whether you graduate from one of these schools or you apply right off the street, you have to take an online biographical questionnaire.

Among the questions: What were your math scores in high school? Do you see yourself as persistent or determined?

CCBC graduate Kaitlynn Cornett didn't pass the questionnaire either.

"I'm not sure exactly what it has to do with air traffic control?" asked Cornett. "I had graduated from the program with honors."

School Vice-President Melissa Denardo, PhD, says they were given no warning by the FAA.

"It was a surprise. It was a shock," said Dr. Denardo.

ATC Coordinator at CCBC, Jim Scott, says they've had about 40 students drop out as a result of the change.

In a statement, the FAA says: "Improvements were made to enhance decision making and increase objectivity in the assessment of candidates. We plan to make further improvements to the process before the next round of hiring."

Scott hopes those "improvements" include getting rid of the questionnaire.

"There were a lot of people who were highly-qualified and graduated from this program who didn't pass it," said Scott.

When the FAA accepts someone, they go to the FAA Academy for training.

But graduates of these schools get to skip the first five weeks, according to Scott, so the programs end up saving taxpayers' money.

Some believe the change has to do with increasing diversity among controllers. But Scott says they have more minority candidates coming from the schools, than people who apply directly to the FAA Academy.

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