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Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony For New Air Traffic Control Center

Posted Dec, 1, 2009

Kent State University will host local community leaders, legislators, university officials and members of the aviation industry as it celebrates the university’s new Air Traffic Control Center on Thursday, Dec. 3, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. The Air Traffic Control Center, which is a simulation laboratory, is located on the second floor of Van Deusen Hall, home of Kent State’s College of Technology.

A short program that includes a ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place at 3:30 p.m. Those participating in the ribbon cutting include Kent State President Lester A. Lefton, Provost and Senior Vice President Robert Frank and Verna Fitzsimmons, interim dean of the College of Technology. Guests who are expected to be in attendance include state Sen. Tom Sawyer; Portage County Commissioners Maureen Frederick, Chuck Keiper and Chris Smeiles; and several representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Kent State is the only school in the state of Ohio that has an air traffic control program. It also is the only school in Ohio that offers the FAA’s Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative program, which air traffic controllers must complete, and therefore is a preferred hiring source of the FAA. The new air traffic control simulator at Kent State is the only one of its kind in Ohio.

Kent State’s Air Traffic Control Center, which opened this fall semester, provides hands-on experience and training for students in the aeronautics program in a simulated environment. The center has $2 million worth of equipment in its simulation lab that includes two air traffic control towers with 240 degree views of the airport and 20 computers. Students and instructors can simulate a whole flight, from takeoff to landing. Currently, the view from the control tower is Daytona Beach Airport. A simulation for Akron-Canton Airport is expected to be in place for the spring semester.

“When students sit behind the controls with their headphones on, they see planes taking off and coming in for landings, and it’s their task to get them safely to their destinations,” said Maureen McFarland, academic program director of aeronautics and assistant professor at Kent State. “Jobs in air traffic control are in high demand, and because Kent State is among a rare few institutions that train students in both TRACON (Terminal Radar Approach Control) and en route operations, our air traffic control students will graduate with a mastery of critical skills, giving them a huge competitive edge when they arrive at the FAA Academy in Oklahoma where all prospective air traffic controllers go to train and test for their national certification.”

Instructors can create different scenarios for the students, including changing the number of planes landing, runway conditions, weather and visibility. Emergency situations also can be simulated.

“We use the same kind of assessment that the FAA gives,” McFarland said. “Students get immediate feedback from their instructors of what they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong. Then, the instructor can tell the student what they need to practice.”

Kent State’s air traffic control program started in fall 2008. Currently, there are 69 students in the program. In addition to air traffic control majors, students in the other aeronautics programs such as flight technology students studying to become professional pilots take this course to learn the basics of air traffic control. The air traffic control program’s first class of graduates will be in 2012.

Watch a video about the new air traffic control simulator.

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Media Contacts:
Maureen McFarland, mmcfarl2@kent.edu, 330-672-9867
Emily Vincent, evincen2@kent.edu, 330-672-8595