UAA’s Air Traffic Control program gets an upgrade

Published: Nov. 22, 2020 at 7:51 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - UAA’s Aviation Technology Division’s Air Traffic Control Program is turning 50 years old, and it has some new cutting-edge technology to go along with the milestone.

The upgrade and new software is better preparing students for what comes after college.

“You can give somebody a book on driving a car, but there’s nothing like putting a 15-year-old behind the steering wheel and letting them drive,” Assistant Professor Mike Moravec said.

The system’s customizations makes it the first of it’s kind.

Sherri LaRue, associate professor of aviation said, “It’s one of the only labs in the country that’s going to be able to address not just the stuff happening on the screen, but the stuff that is going to be a little bit off to the side.”

Moravec said the upgrades give students more of a chance to prepare before they continue their education at the highly-competitive FAA Academy.

“It’s probably 90% functional to what it really will be in a non-training environment,” Moravec said.

The program’s old software was from 2006.

“It’s kind of like, we had a slider, non-smartphone, and now we’ve got a iPhone 12,” Moravec said. The other system was good, but not programmable and it was becoming somewhat obsolete and difficult to maintain.

When Moravec joined the faculty, he identified the need for change. He helped tailor the one-of a kind system.

Student Chris Scott already got his two year degree from before the upgrade. And while waiting for his chance at the FAA Academy, LaRue encouraged him to take a class on the new equipment.

Scott said the change in the program bridges that gap between it being a simulator and the actual real experience of being an aircraft controller.

“You can read about how to shoot a basketball as much as you want. But actually going into the gym and shooting a basketball, you’re gonna miss it a few times. You’re gonna air ball it, but you’re still gonna have a lot of fun,” Scott said.

Moravec’s hope is when students like Scott get to the FAA Academy, they will be able to understand faster and engage at a higher level, leading to a greater success.

The new technology was paid for by a technical and vocational education and training grant.

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