FAA Officials Tout Benefits of Academy Training

Article excerpt

Federal Aviation Administration executives throughout the world are getting a new, seemingly incongruous message _ get your money's worth, send your students to the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City.

Since 1947, there has been only one place for the FAA to rely on for its technical training needs, the academy on the sprawling campus of the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center on the west side of Will Rogers World Airport.

Now, suddenly, executives are hearing what almost amounts to advertisements, touting the benefits of the academy above all others.

It's no mistake. Competition for training dollars has increased, and FAA Academy officials are going all out to continue bringing students to Oklahoma City.

As training needs throughout the agency have increased in the past few years, the amount of training dollars has decreased. At the same time, hungry civilian contractors are knocking on the doors of the U.S. Congress and the FAA headquarters in Washington, D.C., trying to convince officials that training by contract will save money.

While civilians are trying to pry their way into the FAA Academy bailiwick, training planners of other federal agencies, also seeing their budgets reduced, are trying to lure some of that FAA training into their classrooms.

Besides these two groups, there are numerous universities, colleges and vocational-technical schools offering similar types of programs offered by the FAA Academy. Not only that, but some universities are offering degree programs in airways science, which is the most visible of all the academy programs.

All these groups are working to take students away from the academy.

But it's not going to happen, said Richard L. Rodine and Christine George, for things are changing at the academy, and students are getting more than they bargained for.

Not only are students getting more than they expected, but their sponsoring agency also is getting more, said Rodine, who became FAA Academy superintendent in April.

This new concept at the academy is similar to programs within private industry heralding total quality management, with many of the same buzzwords and slogans. It's a far cry from what is normally thought of as government operations _ it's customer driven and tuition based.

"Providing unparalleled quality and customer service in our training programs is even more essential than ever," Rodine said. "We are competing for the option of providing training services for all the departments and elements within the agency."

While the competition for students may be new, the idea of providing customer service and total quality is not, he said.

Robert S. Bartanowicz, Rodine's predecessor, began the change toward quality improvement and customer service with the idea of reducing paperwork and finding more efficient ways to do business.

That philosophy has not only continued, but it has been enlarged, according to George, who became deputy superintendent in September.

"We are working to build customers and quality in training throughout the entire system," she said.

But because the 300 instructors on the faculty and senior management of the academy are assigned for relatively short periods, as is the FAA administrator appointed by the president, programs started by one regime often are dropped or neglected by its successor. That won't happen at the academy, Rodine said.

"What we are trying to do is develop a complete attitude, a way of doing business so that as there is a turnover within the staff, the faculty, even management itself, there will be a mindset that this is the way to do business," he said. "Then this idea will continue even when others are here. …