Every day, thousands of passengers rely on their pilot to get them to and from their destination, but they often forget about the people working to protect them from the ground up.
Andrew Tesar is weeks away from graduating from a program that's exclusive to TSTC in Waco. With 10 campuses across the state, the Waco location is the only one to offer the air traffic control program.
"Most people's first reaction is 'oh wow, that's stressful' which it's not at all. It's actually a lot of fun." Tesar said.
In this program, students use a software that allows them to run through multiple simulations. Nearly a dozen monitors are made to look like you're looking out of an air traffic control tower.
This technology takes them to the virtual skies, showing them how to get planes on and off the ground safely.
"We're able to change the situation. As the student gets better and better, we can make it more difficult. We can add more airplanes, we can add something you can't plan for." said Darwin Klontz, lead supervisor for the air traffic control program.
Tesar has always been interested in aviation. He's from Dallas and enjoyed watching planes soar around the airport as a kid. He said he was won over by the air traffic control program at the end of his campus tour.
"Just the realism that this program presents with all of our simulators and everything, it just brings an element that most schools can't bring," Tesar said.
"Probably about two-thirds of their classroom time is spent on the simulators or in some type of environment of actually training to do the job," Klontz said. "So a lot of students really like that because the classroom environment can get old."
Klontz hopes to be hired by the Federal Aviation Administration soon after graduation. He would then be assigned a position at one of the thousands of airports across the country.
"I think I'd be happy no matter where I end up," Tesar said.
On April 30, Tesar will walk across the stage with 25 of his classmates.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median pay for an air traffic controller is more than $120,000 a year.
For more information on the air traffic control program at TSTC, click here.
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