Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Waiting Game

As most of my friends and family know, I'm in process to become an Air Traffic Controller (ATC).

So tomorrow, I'm faxing in my application to the FAA. They've appointed me to a tower somewhere in Florida, but I have no idea where. Mary and I have been discussing worst-case-scenarios, but most of them don't actually sound that "worst case".

Before I get into it, all FAA-operated towers, approach facilities, and en route centers have an ATC number that indicates how much traffic that facility has. This number directly correlates to the facility's complexity, how long it takes to get trained there, and how much the staff there gets paid. For instance, a little 1-runway airport in the middle of nowhere might be an ATC-5, whereas a big airport with lots of heavy airliner traffic might be an ATC-12.

As far as Florida options, most don't sound horrible...

Pensacola: Low cost of living, right on the the Gulf Coast, ATC-9 level facility, plenty of military traffic to keep it fun. The downside is it borders Alabama and is in the Western-most tip of the Florida panhandle. Driving down to visit our families would be an 8 (or more) hour ordeal, so quick weekend trips up-and-back are out of the question.

Miami: The "big mama" of the state, she's an ATC-12 and comes fully loaded with both a complex tower cab and a 14-radar station TRACON. Going from zero to ATC-12 is not advised, but I think I'm up to the challenge. It could take forever to check out, though; there's a lot to learn, a lot to absorb, and a lot of responsibility to take on.

Fort Lauderdale: I like this airport. It's an ATC-9, close to where I live now (15 minutes away) and is quite busy for its size. While they're extending their south runway, they currently only have a single runway capable of handling airliners. When I was at Miami En Route Center (the facility which feeds all the traffic into Florida) the traffic going into FLL looked like a conga line.

West Palm Beach: Not really familiar with this one, aside from driving past it on occasion. ATC-8 I believe. Pretty serious driving distance, but at least it's within 1 hour of our families.

Tampa Area: There's two major airports in the area - Tampa Int'l and St. Petersburg - plus an associated radar facility attached to TPA. Cost of living is pretty high, but it's a good city with a lot to do. We've been up there twice in the past year and enjoyed ourselves.

Jacksonville: Ugh. I've been up in that area. Just...ugh. Boring. Muggy. Resembles the Deep South more than Florida. I just don't really like it at all. Saint Augustine on the coast is beautiful and quaint, but Jax just didn't rub me the right way.

Orlando Area: Lots of airports in this area, but the king is Orlando International. Orlando's a great place to visit, but I really wouldn't want to live there. Once you get past the Disney / Universal schlock, there's some pretty nasty areas there. Too much "touristyness" (yay - new word) results in a city that feels like plastic - cheap and recycled. Then again, cost of living in the suburbs is pretty decent.

So... those are the major places. There's a few other scattered airports around - Florida Southwest Regional (Fort Myers), Sarasota, Tallahassee, and more.

It's not up to us at all, so we'll see what happens. I'm hoping for Fort Lauderdale, maybe even Miami Tower. I want to stay close to home, to our families, to our businesses. While change is good, the next few years will most likely bring us a little one, and for that you need stability and family.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm a soon-to-be (hopefully) atc trainee. Today I faxed my Florida preference list to the FAA. I noticed you mention the ATC levels of a few facilities - is there somewhere I can find this for locations throughout the US?