Flight Deck Training Puts ATC in Cockpit

Automating FAA Flight Deck Training (FDT) has made it easier than ever to take part in the program to improve communications between pilots and air traffic controllers. Recently, FDT team members participated in NATCA’s Communicating for Safety Conference held March 20-22 in Las Vegas, NV to raise awareness of the program and encourage controllers’ participation. The conference is a venue focusing on the needs of controllers and those affected by the NAS.

The word is spreading about the value of this voluntary training program. More than 2,500 controllers participated over the past year in FDT.

“With the shift to the new Flight Deck Automated System, controller usage grew to 5,448 flights logged in 2016, an increase of more than 400 flights over 2015, and that’s with only five facilities using the system at the time,” said FDT Program Lead Reggie Settle.

Thanks to the work with the five test facilities, the program is more user friendly. System errors were reduced, and processing time for FDT request approvals decreased. Since then, the program was rolled out to 338 facilities across the nation in January, and as of this month, FDT paper requests are a thing of the past as the new automated system ramps up to full force. Usage is expected to increase by at least another 30 percent following integration with eLMS training, PIV security system access, and the Cockpit Access Security System implementation scheduled for late 2019.

Left to Right: Abby Smith, Director, Technical Training, ATO; Terri Biggio, VP Safety & Technical Training; Reggie Settle FDT Program Lead.

To keep FDT training focused, controllers choose at least four training objectives, and must then report on lessons learned within 14 days of completion.

Controller Aaron Mosley, a conference attendee, said the program is immensely valuable. “I’ve completed FDT training at least three times, and gained first-hand experience about what pilots go through in the cockpit. It has helped me become a better controller.”
Left to Right: Reggie Settles, FDT Program Specialist Lead; Aaron Mosley, Air Traffic Controller; Terry Biggio, V.P. Safety &Technical Training; Michelle Buchanan, Air Traffic Controller; Brandon Buchanan, Air Traffic Controller.

"Participation in the NATCA Safety Conference has allowed us to really get the word out about the FDT program,” Reggie said. “The controllers we spoke with are eager to take this information back to their facilities.”

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