Employee recruitment critical to FAA's success in OKC
The Federal Aviation Administration wants to be more than just a blip on your radar.
At the first Chamber Forum event of 2018, nearly 150 business leaders and guests heard from representatives of the Federal Aviation Administration's Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center.
Chamber President and CEO Roy Williams noted that the Monroney Center is Oklahoma's fourth-largest single-site employer in the state with an annual economic impact on the Oklahoma City area estimated at $1.65 billion annually. With a $1 billion annual budget, the center employs more than 6,300 people ranging from engineers to physicists, physicians and data processors.
Michelle Coppedge, the Monroney Center's director, said not a lot of people know of its mission outside of aviation circles.
"We kind of like to think of ourselves as a best-kept secret. But the problem is, we really don't want to be known that way, because we make a huge impact on aviation across the world, and we have a pretty large economic impact as well, both here in the state and across this nation," she said.
The overall lack of public awareness means it can be difficult to recruit the employees she needs who have high-tech engineering, research and data-gathering skills.
Coppedge said she needs workers who can adapt and move the agency forward as the FAA adopts new technology and is faced with regulating new aircraft; the number of registered drones has skyrocketed in the last two years. A lack of a stable, long-term budget from the federal government also could ground the work they do there.
The center and its work touches every aspect of the nation's airspace system, which, on any given day, has about 85,000 flights in the air carrying 2.5 million passengers going to almost 20,000 different airports, she said.
The center trains aviation safety inspectors who clear aircraft to fly, develops air safety rules and trains flight crews on how to implement them, trains air and ground traffic controllers and trains inspectors, engineers, operators and technicians that work with flight-related navigational aids, radars and communications gear, she said.
The center also certifies that pilots and aircrews are fit to fly, registers aircraft, and updates navigational charts used by pilots as they plan and execute their flights.
Forum attendees also heard from Keith DeBerry, director of the FAA Academy (the educational arm of the center that trains U.S. air and ground traffic controllers, inspectors, engineers, technicians and operators who work with various types of aircraft systems and equipment).
DeBerry said the center's staff of 300 full-time and 900 part-time instructors provide training for about 20,000 students a year at the center, adding many of those come from 172 other countries across the globe.
"Think about the influence Oklahoma City projects, not only across the U.S., but across the world," he said, noting those students spend an estimated $70 million annually at area hotels and other businesses.
Dr. Carla Hackworth, the Aerospace Human Factors Research Division Manager at the FAA's Civil Aerospace Medical Institute, also addressed the group.
"As you heard, air travel is reliant upon a number of systems," she said. "There is a technical aspect, the hardware and equipment part, then you have the organizational procedures, such as regulations, and then there is human involvement.
"That's our focus, as humans are integral to every aspect of aviation. They also are the highest element of risk, and we are fully aware of that," Hackworth said as she discussed how the institute manages that risk through certifications and through educational and research programs.
Randall Burke, director of FAA's logistics center, also talked about the role his operation plays in maintaining and repairing 200 different systems that impact every aspect of flight at airports across the nation.
He said the logistics group works with a private contractor at the Monroney Center to troubleshoot problems or issues new technology or obsolescence might present, as well.
Coppedge said she’s trying to attract a diverse applicant pool, but not many people are aware the FAA’s Oklahoma City job listings are posted on USAJobs.gov website.
“We have so many technology jobs,” she said.
The next Chamber Forum is slated for Feb 21, at VAST and will focus on entrepreneurship and start-ups. For more information or to register, visit OKC Chamber Events.