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FAA Announces New 'Air Traffic Controller For A Day' (ATCFAD) Program

In an effort to make the flying public more comfortable with airline flying, the FAA has announced a new program.

"Air Traffic Controller For a Day", or ATCFAD, will officially launch this summer, but program testing has already started.

How The Program Works

The ATCFAD program is based on a lottery system of passengers who have flown on an airline in the past 5 years.

"We know a lot of people are nervous about flying, even though it's statistically safer than driving to the airport", said an unnammed representative of the program.

"People don't fully understand how ATC and pilots work together to make flying so safe, and we want to give them exposure to what it's really like, so we're going to let passengers be an Air Traffic Controller for a day."

Who Qualifies For The Program?

To enter the program, passengers enter their name, email and confirmation number of any airline flight from the past 5 years into the FAA's website.

When a lucky passenger is picked, they get to work in a control tower near them for a day, giving aircraft takeoff and landing clearances, without the help of a real air traffic controller.

"We plan to give our ATCFADs a 30 minute PowerPoint presentation before we hand over the mic", said the program rep. "The PowerPoint will cover the basics of being a tower controller, like how to identify a runway from the tower, required aircraft separation, and the difference between a takeoff and landing clearance."

"We have some of the best pilots in the world flying across the US, and we're confident that even with a completely inexperienced tower controller, pilots will be able to work out the details."

ATCFAD Program Already In Testing

While the program officially starts this summer, testing has already begun.

The first ATCFAD to take over the microphone was Sean Maday, a frequent airline passenger and avid aviation fan.

"At first I was a little nervous", said Maday. "While I've been around aviation all my life, I've never been in a tower cab, much less given a takeoff clearance to an aircraft." "Plus, I've really been struggling with my narcolepsy recently, and I didn't want to get caught sleeping on the job", Maday added. "But, I was able to get a waiver for that, so I was good to go."

Maday's day as a controller got off to a bit of a rough start. "The other controllers in the cab kept talking about something called 'flow control', but I was so excited, I kept giving aircraft takeoff clearances", said Maday. "At one point, I even got 3 aircraft on to a runway at one time!"

The FAA is reviewing Maday's performance to make tweaks for the official program launch. "We saw a 467% increase in delays while Maday was controlling aircraft, so we want to improve that number before our program goes live. But if we can get ourselves under 300%, it will be a massive a success."

The FAA hasn't said if they've been able to improve efficiency from their first test case yet, but they did say they're "making a lot of progress."

Are You Ready For Your Shot As A Controller?

To pre-enroll in the ATCFAD program, click here.

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