Sometimes the path you’re on may be leading you in the wrong direction. This was the realization for Vaughn graduate Antonio Florio ’19 when, at the age of 25, he switched gears from a career in economics and decided to pursue his passion for aviation and become an air traffic controller. Now, at 29, he’s training for his future at New York Air Route Traffic Control Center (ZNY) on Long Island. Read on to learn how a conversation with his uncle sparked his ambition to go back to college and follow his lifelong dream of being an eye in the sky.
Keeping an eye on the sky
Growing up in Rockland County, New York, Florio always had his eyes on the sky. He remembers how going to the airport was one of his favorite things to do as a child. “From as far back as I can remember, I would always have my head out of the car window, looking up at the planes as we drove to the airport—or anywhere for that matter,” Florio said laughingly. “Airplanes always fascinated me.”
Finding his way
After graduating from high school, Florio attended the State University of New York at Oneonta, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in economics in 2015. For the next three years, he worked in this field but eventually realized the economics industry was not for him. “I was bored at my job,” he said. “I wasn’t happy going to work every day. I knew I had to make a change.” Then, one day he had a conversation with his uncle, who happened to be a pilot. “My uncle saw how unhappy I was at my job and suggested I pursue a career in aviation like him,” Florio explained. “I knew I didn’t want to be a pilot, but my uncle suggested becoming an air traffic controller. The rest is history.” Florio left his job and took some time off to travel and contemplate his next move. Knowing he had his sights set on becoming an air traffic controller, the next decision was where to earn his degree.
Being a native New Yorker, Florio was familiar with Vaughn College and knew that was where he was destined to turn his passion into a career. As one of only 30 colleges in the country to offer the Air Traffic-Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI), Florio was certain that Vaughn would be the best place to prepare him for a career as an air traffic controller.
“I attended a campus tour and was instantly excited about attending the College,” Florio explained. “Once I saw the control tower on campus, I was hooked!” In September 2018, he enrolled in Vaughn’s Airport Management degree program. Since Florio already had one bachelor’s degree under his belt, he was able to complete the program in one year and he graduated with his second bachelor’s degree in May 2019. “The instructors at Vaughn were instrumental in my aspirations to become an air traffic controller,” Florio said. “Their firsthand industry knowledge and sincere interest in my success was paramount during my time there.”
Applying for training
After graduating from Vaughn, Florio went through the rigorous process of applying for the air traffic controller program. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), applicants must meet minimum requirements before being selected to attend the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City. Florio said the process—which he describes as “intense”—took about four months to complete. In April 2020, he received notice that he’d met all the requirements and passed all the mandatory testing and evaluations. “I believe having the AT-CTI certification gave me a strong foundation of knowledge to be successful at the FAA academy,” he said. “The pool of applicants was considerable.” Florio was now one step closer to his dream. And then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. This was a major setback for Florio, but he didn’t let it hold him back. He took a job at Westchester County Airport, where he worked in the operations department to fill the time while waiting to begin his training. “Working at the airport was a great learning experience,” he said. “I gained valuable knowledge outside of the classroom that was instrumental in my career.”
Back on track
In November 2021, Florio began his training at the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City, where he remained for four months. “Training at the academy was an amazing experience,” he said. “The competition was steep, but it makes you want to work harder.” Of the eight candidates in his class, Florio was one of the four who passed the FAA training. With this milestone behind him, he was given a list of available positions across the country. “I was chosen to work in En Route Operations, which are facilities that own and operate airspace around 18,000 -to-60,000 feet,” he explained. Florio accepted the position at the New York Air Route Traffic Control Center (ZNY) on Long Island located in Ronkonkoma, where he has been training for the past three months. “New York is home for me,” he said. “My fiancé and our families live here as well. I feel like I hit the lottery with this job.”
Florio explained how there is a backlog of trainees at the facility due to the COVID-19 lockdown. “I’m hoping to complete my training and become a certified professional controller within the next few years.” In the meantime, he is training on material that is specific to New York: The study of maps of the airspace in upstate New York and Pennsylvania, the airports in that airspace and military rules, among other topics.
When asked about his decision to switch careers, Florio replied: “Don’t be afraid to make a move in a different direction. You never know how it will turn out until you try, so never settle to play it safe. You have to be happy going to a job every day. It’s never too late to make that happen.”
The ongoing shortage of aviation employees—which include pilots, crew members and air traffic controllers—continues to cripple the industry. If you’re looking for a high-paying career with great benefits and a flexible schedule, becoming an air traffic controller may be the perfect job for you. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual median salary for air traffic controllers in 2021 was $129,750. Were you also aware that the mandatory retirement age for air traffic controllers is 56 at which point they receive a pension (50% of average pay) after working for 20 years? For this reason, aviation enthusiasts who are interested in this field are encouraged to begin the process early.
Do you have your sights on becoming an air traffic controller? Vaughn can get you there—and in less time than you think. Apply today!
When we hear the word “aviation” our minds typically turn to airplanes and pilots. But did you ever wonder who is working on the ground to keep the industry moving and keep travelers, pilots and flight attendants safe?
This month, we spotlight the exciting careers you can pursue in the airport and airline management industry. If you have a passion for aviation—but would prefer to keep your feet on the ground—your futureproof career may lie within one of these sectors. Read on to learn more about these in-demand careers and the success stories of graduates from Vaughn who have landed their dream jobs doing what they love.
Air Traffic Controller
If becoming an air traffic controller has been on your radar, you may want to learn more about this exciting career. Air traffic controllers (ATCs) are so much more than “eyes in the sky.” On a daily basis, air traffic controllers are responsible for monitoring aircraft through the use of radar and other equipment. Air traffic controllers require a particular set of skills and a talent for teamwork to be successful.
Responsibilities of an Air Traffic Controller
In addition to coordinating and monitoring the movement of aircraft within safe distances—both in the air and on the ground—they have other responsibilities that include:
Controlling ground traffic at airport runways and taxiways
Issuing landing and takeoff instructions to pilots
Transferring control of departing flights to other traffic control centers and accepting control of arriving flights
Aviation enthusiasts from all walks of life are flocking toward a career in air traffic control for its unique benefits. If you are one of these enthusiasts, benefits of being an air traffic controller include:
Potential to earn a six-figure salary after first few years of service
Consistent work schedule
Mandatory retirement age at 56—with full federal benefits
How Vaughn Can Get You There
Vaughn can prepare you for this exciting career as an air traffic controller, and in less time than you might have imagined. Vaughn partners with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to offer the Air Traffic-Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI). Why is that important? By attending an AT-CTI institution like Vaughn, you get to bypass the biometric screening that’s required by the FAA and could enter the training program faster. Vaughn is one of only 30 colleges in the country to offer this program and is the only program of its kind in the Northeast.
Vaughn Student Success Story: Air Traffic Control
Vaughn College graduate Jessenia Diaz ’10 landed her dream job as an air traffic controller at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens. In December 2010, she graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor of science degree in airport management and general management, received the board of trustees award at spring convocation and was selected as the student commencement speaker for 2011.
“Pilots may have the best equipment on the plane, but they depend on us to navigate them from the ground. I love my job and wouldn’t trade working in New York for anything. My time at Vaughn gave me the knowledge and experience to get me where I am today.”
In the US, safety managers are responsible for promoting safety awareness by adhering to regulations from the FAA and other agencies, which include the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Homeland Security. Here are some of the essential responsibilities of a airport security manager:
Maintain the safety and security of the airport
Review and revise airport safety and security plans
Develop and implement employee safety policies and practices
Inspect runway lighting
Keep runways clear
Ensure airfield is protected
How Vaughn Can Get You There
Vaughn College offers an airport management degree program to prepare students for the various functional areas of aviation and business management. Located across from New York’s newly-renovated LaGuardia Airport, the learning environment at Vaughn College provides unsurpassed experiences for students. If airport management is a career you are considering, Vaughn will prepare you to work full-time in either an airport or related industry.
“Brazil put forth a major effort to prepare for the 2016 Olympic games. It appears this type of investment will ensure the security, service and operations for all users of the airport during the Olympic games and into the future.”
Airport Operations Manager
Airports operate under Part 139 Certification, issued by the FAA to ensure safety in air transportation. With that being understood, the role of an operations manager is to supervise and coordinate the day-to-day landside and airside operations of the airport. They must possess outstanding management and communication skills and have full knowledge of FAA rules, among other requirements. Here is snapshot of how it all breaks down:
Managing various airline terminals and concourses
Ensuring the safety and flow of roadways for buses, passenger cars, etc.
Overseeing retail operations, such as shops and restaurants
Assisting in the preparation of annual budgets for airport operations
Ensuring runways and taxiways are open and clear
Coordinating ground operations, including baggage and catering
Managing aircraft fueling
Communicating with air traffic control
Planning and coordinating the arrivals and departures of very important people (VIPs)
How Vaughn Can Get You There
Vaughn’s faculty, staff and curriculum work together seamlessly to ensure their students’ success. For Vaughn airport management graduate Otha Ward ’19 a summer internship, leadership roles and outstanding professors proved to be a winning combination in helping him land his position of airport operations agent at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK).
Vaughn Student Success Story: Airport Operations
Otha credits Vaughn with helping him to pursue his dream of securing a rewarding career at an international airport.
“Vaughn is a special place,” he stated humbly. “The College has connections that set it apart from other institutions—making that one of its greatest assets. I’m grateful to everyone at Vaughn for helping me get to where I am today.”
Air Cargo Manager
The air cargo market has seen a recent surge in demand, as airfreight and cargo companies have become an essential part of transporting medical supplies and other life-saving equipment during the coronavirus pandemic. According to a recent market report—Global Air Cargo Market 2020-2024—released by Technavio (a global technology research and advisory company), the air cargo market is expected to grow by 16.75 million tons during this four-year timeframe. Freight and cargo managers are an integral part of this growing industry, as they are responsible for revenue management, quality control and understanding the needs of shippers to ultimately enhance profitability.
Advantages of Choosing Vaughn
Vaughn’s long-term relationship with Atlas Air has resulted in many alumni landing internships and ultimately full-time positions with this renowned aviation cargo company. Karen Batson ’04, Vaughn alumna and adjunct faculty member, has been instrumental in hiring more than 30 of the College’s recent graduates to work at Atlas Air because she knows how Vaughn prepares graduates for successful careers in the aviation field.
Vaughn Student Success Story: Air Cargo
Vaughn College alumnus Vladislav Makarov ’16 landed his job at air cargo company Atlas Air in 2015, never imagining how valuable his dual bachelor’s degrees in airport and airline management from Vaughn would become—especially during an unforeseen pandemic.
“Vaughn’s curriculum prepares you for the field you’ll be working in by providing real-world practical examples that you can use right away,” Makarov said. “Unlike my experiences at other colleges, at Vaughn, you jump right into the core of what you will be doing in your field after graduation.”
Earn a Master’s Degree in Airport and Aviation Management at Vaughn
At Vaughn, you can take your passion to the next level with a master’s degree in either airport management or aviation management.
Master of Science in Airport Management
Did you know Vaughn College offers one of the few graduate-level programs in airport management in the Northeast? Our airport management degree program applies modern management concepts to the aviation environment by incorporating the most current research and state-of-the-art technology so that students can be prepared and adaptable to this ever-changing industry. If this career choice interests you, a master’s degree in airport management will not only expand your career opportunities but also enhance your risk assessment, management and leadership skills.
The master’s in airport management degree program requires 34 credits and includes a master’s project or thesis. Vaughn’s close proximity to world-class airports gives students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience and knowledge from instructors who are industry leaders. You can complete the master’s in airport management degree program in one year, but you also have the opportunity to schedule your courses over your own timelines.
Master of Business Administration (MBA) Degree in Aviation Management
The Master of Business Administration (MBA) Degree in Aviation Management will provide entry- or mid-level professionals with the skills and knowledge needed to advance in general management and aviation-related organizations. This course of study will provide the opportunity to learn and apply scientific methods to understanding and addressing business and aviation topics. Depending on a student’s academic background, they may be required to complete some basic business training. The Master of Business Administration (MBA) Degree in Aviation Management has at its core 35 credits and will include an industry analysis project.
We hope you enjoyed learning about the various careers you can pursue in the aviation and airport management fields. Feeling inspired? Join us for our Virtual Open House on April 8 at 6 p.m. and “Meet The Future You.” We look forward to seeing you there!
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