Monday, July 16, 2007

RTF Class Dates

Forress just asked me the following, which I felt were excellent questions:
I have a question, so tower class is 7 weeks and if you passed the PV, they send you to RTF for another 2 1/2 weeks. How come some are going to their facilities first but you are going straight to RTF school?

And do they tell you this the first day you report to OKC? I would imagine it'll mess up ppl's return plane ticket if they don't tell you ahead of time.
1) How come some are going to their facilities first but you are going straight to RTF school?

I'm the odd-man-out. Usually people report to their facilities first, then come back for RTF. I'll go into how that happened in a minute.

With regards to when you report for RTF training, every facility is different. Usually the priority is based on how useful you will be to your facility without RTF.
  • Stand-alone TRACONs: If you're going to a stand-alone TRACON, such as Potomac TRACON, Southern California TRACON, Pensacola TRACON, Atlanta Large TRACON, or New York TRACON, you're pretty much a doorstop until you have RTF since it's all radar and no tower. If that's the kind of facility you're going to, your turnaround time is going to be pretty short compared to other facilities. To even begin your training (outside of CBIs, maps, monitoring, and other self-study stuff) you need radar familiarity, and they will want to get you in and out of OKC's RTF program as fast as possible so they can start OJT.

    Everyone I've spoken who is going to a stand-alone TRACON measured their turnaround time in weeks, usually around one or two. For my facility, there were a couple of guys who got to hang out at the facility for about a month. There were a few more new hires coming in after them staggered a couple weeks apart, and they wanted to send them all off to RTF together in one bunch.
  • Up/Downs: If you're going to an up/down combined tower/TRACON like Miami, West Palm Beach, or Fort Myers you will probably get some OJT in the tower cab . As an example, there's one guy in my RTF class who went to Kansas City Int'l two months ago and is already checked out on their tower. Other people in my class going to up/downs are also in different stages of tower training. Like I said, every facility is different, and every trainee is different.
2) And do they tell you this the first day you report to OKC? I would imagine it'll mess up ppl's return plane ticket if they don't tell you ahead of time.

Nope... and yes it sure does.

To sum up how RTF scheduling works (as it was explained to me), each region is allotted a certain number of seats in each RTF class. Three regions * 6 slots each = RTF Class of 18 people. This seems to be what makes it complicated for RTF students to swap classes, in particular if they come from different regions. It apparently takes a lot of paperwork and legwork because it involves a balance of both the region's slots and your facility's needs. If you're going to an East Coast facility but want to swap dates with your friend who's going to the West Coast, be prepared for an interesting ride.

Something else to note is that, upon passing your PVs, you become your facility's "property". Anything that has to do with things like your pay, your per-diem, your travel, your RTF date, etc. is handled specifically by your facility. While HR and the RTF department may have some information and say in the matter, your facility is the last word. If you are uncertain about when or if you need RTF, drop a line to your manager and see where you stand.

Anyways, you asked how I ended up back-to-back with my Tower class? Well.... My RTF situation was pretty screwed up. To sum it up, my class date ended up changing three times. And no, that was not fun. Let me lay it out in a timeline in the comments...


forress said...

Thanks for the clarification. Sorry to hear about what happened to you and your wife but we now know a little more about what to expect in regards to the mystery of RTF class and the trouble just trying to find out the start date.

Wicked Penguin said...

Here's my story about RTF scheduling. As I mentioned, my RTF date got changed 3 times. To sum it up: be prepared for anything, and don't make plans too far out....

Mid-April: I get my Tower class date for May 15th-July 6th. I ask about my RTF date right then and there, and they give me the July 12th class.

I ask her specifically if I will have to report to my facility between the 6th and the 12th. I am told no, I will not have to report, since there's not a lot of time in between. My Tower class ends on a Friday. They don't count weekends, so Monday would be my travel day to my facility. July 12th is a Thursday, so Wednesday would be my travel day back to OKC, leaving only Tuesday in the middle to report. Flying thousands of miles to report to my facility for one day only to wind up right back where I was sounds ridiculous.

Late April: I visit my facility, and am told that I will have to report for that single Tuesday. I call my HR contact, and she of course has zero recollection of that earlier conversation. My facility secretary does tell me that I can take leave if I need to. So be it. I have to report. Not happy.

Early June: Fast forward a few months to the third or fourth week of Tower. One of my friends in Tower also has to take RTF, and they have her scheduled for July 20th. She calls up the RTF people and asks them if she can be scheduled in my class on the 12th. They tell her that the 20th is the earliest class date in July.

This of course sends up major alarm bells, as my wife had just bought a plane ticket the day before, based on July 12th. I call the RTF lady, and she tells me that in fact I'm in the July 20th class, and, oh, by the way, we move the dates around. (How nice!) Apparently the July 12th class no longer exists. She does tell me, however, that there is a class on July 6th, which was the last day of my Tower class PV's. I inquire about it and am told that in order to do so I will have to contact my facility manager and work my way up through the regional office. I decide that, being a new hire, I don't want to piss anyone off and choose not to pursue it any further. The last thing I want to be labeled as is a troublemaker. The July 20th class will work fine and will give us some time to get a place and moving setup. I drop the issue and change my wife's plane ticket (for $150 extra) and redo all of our moving plans based on the new dates.

Mid-June: I get a call a week later, saying that I'm on the waiting list for the July 6th class and that typically there are four people in line ahead of me. Note: I never, ever asked to be put in the July 6th class; I just asked about it. Yet they put me in a waiting list anyways. In an act of stupidity, I assumed that there would be a phone call, a note, something asking if you did really want this class before they made the change. Every other "waiting list" I've been on has worked like that. Naturally, the FAA is different... I did tell her that I was fine with the July 20th class now. Also, given the four people ahead of me, I wasn't too concerned.

Late-June: One fine morning, I get a note in class cheerily telling me that I've been changed to the July 6th class and that my last day of Tower has been waived. I immediately call my RTF contact and ask her how this happened. To make a long story short, they apparently raised hell and high water to change me.

I now end up calling both my facility's secretary and my facility manager. Both are now pissed off at me and saying that I've been causing all this trouble. If you recall, that was the exact reason why I didn't want the July 6th class!!! Great first freaking impression... all I can do is apologize and try to explain.

In any case, I put in the calls to see if I can get things changed. No one is happy, and of course all the RTF classes are now full through September. She does bump me to the front of the line for the July 20th class and starts putting out emails and calls for swapping possibilities. However, she tells me that if no one offers to swap by July 1st, I'm stuck since it takes a few days to put the paperwork through.

July 1st: I check with her, and the deal is done. No one was willing to switch or change out one of their slots. And now here I am.

The stupid irony is that when we took our first block test last week, everyone's login screens showed that we, the July 6th class...hahahaha....were apparently in fact the July 12th class.

Brian said...

wow, sounds like typcial government work unfortunately. Since I have 5 years of previous gov't work, I have mastered the perfect facial expression to get a good answer on why they are acting stupidly and how they are going to do better. It's a mix of WTF, a touch of anger, and a lot of are you really that stupid? And then offer them the solution they should have come up with first, in question form. That way it makes them think they thought of it.

It's like how to sound best on the radio back in nav school, you need to sound pissed off at the whole situation, yet slightly amused.