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Careers With The Government




At the end of this block of study, you should be able to:

6.19 Discuss the duties of government employees.
6.20 Identify the purpose of the Federal Aviation Administration.
6.21 State the function of the FAA Air Traffic Control Center.
6.22 Describe the responsibility of the facilities that control the instrument flight rules traffic.
6.23 Outline the task of the National Aviation Facilities Experiment Center.
6.24 Describe the functions of the FAA Aeronautical Center.
6.25 Identify the responsibility of the National Transportation Safety Board.

A major source of aviation careers lies in Jobs with Federal, state, and local government agencies. The Federal Government offers such benefits as Equal Pay for Equal Work, Upward Mobility, and Handicapped Employee Programs. Employees are covered by the Federal Employees Benefits Program, which features liberal fringe benefits and salaries. Salaries for Federal Civil Service employees are established into two chief categories:
1. General Schedule—for those employees who perform administrative, technical, clerical and professional Jobs and who are paid on an annual basis.
2. Federal Wage System—for those employees who perform jobs associated with the trades and crafts and who are paid wages on an hourly basis.

Civil aviation careers in the Federal Government are found within the Federal Aviation Administration and other Federal departments and agencies. All of these aviation jobs come under the Federal Civil Service System. Most Federal Civil Service employees in the aviation field are covered by the General Schedule and their salaries vary according to their grade level.

If you are selected for a job, there are several types of appointments: temporary, term, career-conditional, and career. Temporary appointments usually last not longer than a year and you cannot be transferred or promoted or put under the retirement system. A term appointee works on a special project which lasts more than a year but less than four and is also Ineligible for the retirement system. However, a term appointee can be transferred or promoted within the project. A career-conditional appointee is put on probation for a year, but has promotional and transfer privileges and after the probation period cannot be removed without cause or layoffs. After serving as a career-conditional employee for three years, the employee can become a career appointee. The appointment brings promotional and transfer privileges, and these employees are among the last group to be laid off.

Although Washington, D.C., is the Federal Government's headquarters, only about 12 percent of all Federal employees work there. Many work In Federal agencies around the country and abroad. The largest number of aviation jobs found within the Federal Government (outside the Department of Defense) Is with the Federal Aviation Administration.


The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is charged by Congress with regulating air commerce to Improve aviation safety, promoting civil aviation and a national system of airports, achieving efficient use of navigable airspace, and developing and operating a common system of air traffic control and air navigation for both civilian and military aircraft.

One of FAA's biggest tasks in the area of aviation safety is the control of air traffic. Air traffic control is concerned with keeping aircraft safely separated to prevent accidents. This Is necessary while aircraft are taxiing on the ground, during takeoff, en route, ascending, and approaching and landing. The FAA also provides preflight and in-flight services to all pilots for air traffic control and safety purposes.

Air traffic control is accomplished by establishing certain parts of the airspace as controlled airspace and by requiring that all aircraft flying within this controlled airspace follow certain rules and regulations.

There are two types of facilities that control the instrument flight rules (IFR) traffic flying within the controlled airspace. The first Is the Airport Traffic Control Tower which controls traffic departing or arriving at certain airports. The control tower is equipped with complex electronic equipment and Is operated by highly skilled FAA air traffic controllers. The tower also controls aircraft taxiing on the ground. As would be expected, the busier the airport and the more types of aircraft it handles, the more restrictive are the rules and regulations. Certain large metropolitan airports require all aircraft using the facility to be equipped with various types of traffic control equipment Some of this equipment Is very expensive, and many general aviation pilots cannot afford It. Therefore they are restricted from using these large airports.

After the IFR aircraft leaves the immediate area of the airport, the controller in the tower will "hand it off" (transfer it) to another air traffic controller in the second type at facility, the Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC). The ARTCC assigns the aircraft a certain altitude and a specific route to follow to its destination. The pilot must not change the route or the altitude without permission As the flight continues, the aircraft is transferred from one ARTCC to another. The flight is under positive control at all times, and no other aircraft is allowed to enter that aircraft's "piece of airspace." The ARTCCs follow the flight on radar and are in voice communication at all times. Commercial, general aviation and military aircraft all use the same traffic control system when flying within the controlled airspace.

The FAA a so provides assistance to pilots who do not fly within the controlled airspace. These are mostly general aviation pilots, because most airline and military aircraft are required to fly IFR at all times. This assistance is provided by a third type of facility called the flight service station (FSS). The FAA personnel who work in the FSSs provide preflight information such as weather information, suggested routes, altitudes, etc., to pilots. In addition, the FSS provides in-flight information, via radio, and assistance In the event a pilot becomes lost or is having trouble.

The National Aviation Facilities Experiment Center (NAFEC) is the FAA's research and development center. This center Is located In Atlantic City, New Jersey It Is involved in research to upgrade our airway systems, to improve aircraft instruments and systems, and to reduce the workload on the pilot in the aircraft and the controller on the ground. All of these efforts are expended to make flying easier and safer.

Another facility operated by FAA is the FAA Aeronautical Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. This multimillion-dollar facility is the home of the FAA Academy which is the training center for FAA operational personnel. They train the personnel that operate the ARTCCs, FSSs, and airport control towers. In addition to training FAA control tower operators, they also train controllers for the military and for many foreign countries. The Academy also Is the training ground for the engineers and technicians who Install and maintain the electronic equipment used for navigation, communications, and air traffic control. Finally, the Academy provides initial and refresher training for their maintenance Inspectors.

Air traffic control trainees receive from 11 to 16 weeks of initial screening and instruction at the FAA Academy. After successfully completing this training, they are assigned to a developmental position at a field location, receiving on-the job training. Those who successfully complete each phase of training progress to the next higher level until they become facility-rated. Those who fail any phase of training are separated from the FAA or reassigned to a non controller position. The nature of the work requires that controllers complete proficiency training programs on an ongoing basis. The facilities, devices, and machines needed by the Federal Aviation Administration to carry on its work require the services of a number of engineering specialists.

The Aerospace (Aeronautical) Engineer develops, interprets, and administers safety regulations relating to airworthiness of aircraft and their accessories. Although defense expenditures for military aircraft, missiles, and other aerospace systems are not expected to grow much, employment is expected to increase about average because of growth in the civilian sector. Much of the present fleet of planes will be replaced with quieter and more fuel-efficient aircraft, and there will be increased demand for spacecraft, helicopters, and 7 business aircraft. Average salary is $58, 100.

The Electrical Engineer deals with power supply, distribution, and standby power generation required for the operation of air navigational aids. Employment opportunities are favorable, and there should be a 31 percent Increase In the number of people hired. Average salary Is $60,500.

The Electronics Engineer designs electronic navigational aids and communications systems. Because of an increased demand for electronic consumer goods, there is expected to be a 31 percent or more Increase In the number of employees hired. Average salary Is $55,700.

The Mechanical Engineer designs gasoline and diesel power plants for standby power generation in case of emergencies. Average growth Is expected as the demand for machinery and machine tools grows and as Industrial machinery and processes be come Increasingly complex. Opportunities are favorable. Average salary Is $55,700.

The Civil Engineer deals with a broad range of airport design, construction, and maintenance matters. Because of a growing population and economy, jobs will result in an average growth. Average salary is $53,300.

The FAA also requires the services of other professional people. Aviation medicine Is a most important function, and physicians who have chosen aviation medicine as a specialty beyond their general medical education are employed by the FAA in limited numbers. These physicians study such things as the effects of flying on the human body, the need for oxygen above certain altitudes, the effects of fatigue on pilot performance, vision and hearing standards, the tension and stress factors associated with the air traffic controller's job, and the standards of the various classes of medical examinations required for pilots and other members of flight crews.

In 1990, the FAA Academy was taking steps to ensure that both old and new controllers would be capable of operating reading, and responding to the many new high-tech computers being Introduced through Its $15.9 billion National Airspace System Plan, Other systems that required controller training included new airport-surveillance radars capable of displaying weather and aircraft traffic simultaneously, new airport surface detection radars, and low-level wind-shear alert systems. The FAA Is seeking $34 million to build a new training center with a three-dimensional tower simulator at Its site at Oklahoma City's Will Rogers World Airport.

The Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAI) also is located at the Aeronautical Center. CAI operates the program for medical certification of all airmen. It Is Involved In research to Identify human factors which cause accidents and how to make accidents more survivable.


The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Is a five-member board appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. The members of the NTSB are appointed for a term of five years. There can be no more than three members from any one political party.

The NTSB Is responsible for determining the cause, or probable cause, of any transportation accident. Under the chairman of the NTSB, the Bureau of Aviation Safety carries out these duties in the area of aviation. The Bureau of Aviation Safety makes rules governing accident reporting. They also Investigate all aircraft accidents (they have delegated this duty to the FAA In the case of general aviation accidents), report the facts relating to each accident and the probable cause, and make recommendations to the FAA as to how to prevent similar accidents.

The NTSB maintains its own technological division which provides engineering and technical assistance in areas of aerodynamics, structures, propellers, power plants, instruments, electronic aids to navigation, human factors, etc. These experts are available to assist in determining the causes of various accidents. They also assist the manufacturers in making their aircraft safer.



At the end of this block of study, you should be able to:

6.26 Explain the function of NASA.
6.27 Discuss the type of work performed by NASA employees.
6.28 Identify the locations of NASA field centers.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is a civilian government agency which was established October 1, 1958. NASA, the space agency, was created by an Act of Congress one year after the Soviets launched the first man-made satellite (Sputnik) into orbit around the Earth. The agency was formed to pursue peaceful uses of space for the benefit of all mankind. NASA plans, directs, and conducts activities pertaining to civilian aeronautical and space research and development. It manages the development, construction testing, and operation of manned and unmanned aeronautical and space vehicles for basic and applied research purposes. Broad programs conducted by the agency are spaceflight, space sciences and their applications advanced engineering and physical science research, and tracking and data acquisition.

To fulfill program objectives, members of NASA's technical team pursue research and development activities within their own facilities and laboratories. Scientists, technicians, and support personnel employed by NASA produce data generated from basic and applied research. The agency's engineers, technicians, and craftsmen apply this data. These research and development activities represent one part of the agency's responsibility for the Nation’s overall aerospace program. Approximately 90 percent of the agency's funds are extended for research and development conducted by organizations outside the government with NASA overseeing the work. Grants, scholarships, and contracts are awarded by the agency to qualified scientists and engineers.

NASA has a network of centers and facilities across the United States (see figure 6-19) with its headquarters in Washington, D.C. This headquarters manages the spaceflight centers, research centers, and other Installations. The staff has responsibility for determining projects and programs; establishing management policies, and performance criteria and review; and analyzing all phases of the aerospace program.

The Office of Aeronautics and Space Technology has two primary responsibilities-in aeronautics, to develop the technology needed to assure safer, more efficient, economical, and environmentally acceptable air transportation systems; in space research and technology, to provide a technology base to support current and future space activities, to coordinate the agency's total program to supporting research and technology related to carrying out specific flight missions to ensure an integrated and balanced agency research program, and to coordinate NASA's support of other federal agencies in energy research and development.

The Office of Space Science and Applications is responsible for research and development activities in Earth resources; meteorology; communications; life sciences; and, by using a variety of flight systems and ground-based observations, to increase knowledge of the universe.

The Office of Space Flight is responsible for the research, development, and operations of spaceflight programs, including the space shuttle.

The Office of Tracking and Data Systems is responsible for the development, implementation, and operation of tracking, data acquisition, command, communications, data processing facilities, and systems and services required to support NASA flight missions.

In addition to the Headquarters, there are ten NASA field installations and a contract-operated laboratory. A broad range d research and development activities is conducted in the installations by government-employed scientists, engineers, and technicians who also manage contracts with universities and industries. NASA's field centers are located at the following sites:

Ames Research Center Mountain View, California)
Dryden Flight Research Facility (Edwards AFB California)
Goddard Space Flight Center (Greenbelt, Maryland)
Jet Propulsion Laboratory (Pasadena, California)
Johnson Space Center (Houston, Texas)
Kennedy Space Center (Cape Canaveral, Florida)
Langley Research Center (Hampton, Virginia)
Lewis Research Center (Cleveland, Ohio)
Marshall Space Flight Center (Huntsville, Alabama)
National Space Technology Laboratories-NSTL (Bay St. Louis, Mississippi)
Wallops Flight Facility (Wallops Island, Virginia)

Education is a critical requirement if you are interested in employment with NASA. Most technical degrees (biomedical engineering, ceramics, chemistry, industrial engineering, materials science, metallurgy, optical engineering, oceanography, etc.) will ensure you will be considered by aerospace industry and government recruiters. Also, don't ignore nontechnical fields such as finance, communications, marketing, management, and data processing. Any aerospace firm, whether government or private, can function only when it has qualified people who keep the records, pay the bills, and keep its organizational structure operating at an efficient level. NASA also needs lawyers, writers, and artists. Remember that stellar academic achievements will not guarantee you a place in space. Good grades are important, but you will also be evaluated on what you have done outside the classroom and how you come across as a prospective employee.

In cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association (USRA), the space agency also sponsors an Advanced Design Program whereby students at selected schools work on advanced mission studies for NASA within the context of their accredited courses. Information on this program is available from USRA, 2525 Bay Area Boulevard, Suite 530, Houston, Texas 77058. NASA field centers offer high school, college, and graduate students the chance to get hands-on work experience while completing their education, through the agency's Cooperative Education Program (co-op). Co-op will give you a chance to gain some experience, and co-op students often become employees upon graduation.

About 40 percent of government space expenditures go to NASA for nonmilitary research & development and space operations. Another 60 percent is channeled to the military for defense, and a small amount goes to other government space programs such as the weather satellites operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

NASA spends half of its money on research at the agency's field centers around the country while the other half is used for support contracts and major hardware procurement.

Astronauts. NASA selected their first astronauts from the U.S. military services. These astronauts were required to have had jet aircraft flight experience and engineering training. Height could be no more than 5 feet 11 inches because of limited cabin space available in the Mercury space capsule. After many series of intense physical and psychological screenings, NASA selected seven men from an original field of 500 candidates.

Nine pilot astronauts were chosen in September 1962, and fourteen more were selected in October 1963. By then, prime emphasis had shifted away from flight experience toward superior academic qualifications In October 1964, applications were invited on the basis of educational background alone.

The first group of astronaut candidates for the Space Shuttle Program was selected in January 1978. This group of 20 mission specialists and 15 pilots completed training at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

NASA accepts applications for the Astronaut Candidate Program on a continuous basis. Candidates are selected as needed, normally every two years, for pilot and mission specialist categories. Both civilian and military personnel are considered for the program. Civilians may apply at any time. Military personnel must apply through their parent branch of the service and be nominated by their branch to NASA.

For mission specialists and pilot astronaut candidates, the education and experience requirements include at least a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution in engineering, biological science, physical science, or mathematics. Three years of related, progressively responsible professional experience must follow the degree. An advanced degree Is desirable and may be substituted for all or part of the experience requirement.

Pilot astronaut applicants also must meet the following requirements prior to submitting an

1. At least I,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft. Flight-test experience is highly desirable.

2. Ability to pass a NASA Class I space physical (similar to a military or civilian Class I flight physical) which includes the following specific standards for vision: distance visual acuity— 20/50 or better uncorrected, correctable to 20/20, each eye.

3. Height between 64 and 76 inches.

Mission specialists have similar requirements, except that the qualifying physical is a NASA Class II space physical (similar to a military or civilian Class II flight physical) and includes the following specific standards for vision: distance visual acuity—20/100 or better uncorrected, correctable to 20/20, each eye.

Selected applicants are designed astronaut candidates and are assigned to the astronaut office at Johnson Space Center for a one-year training and evaluation period. During this period, candidates are assigned technical or scientific responsibilities and they participate in the astronaut training program designed to develop the knowledge and skills required for formal mission training upon selection for a flight. However, selection as a candidate does not ensure selection as an astronaut.

Final selection is based on satisfactory completion of the one-year program. Civilian candidates who successfully complete the training and evaluation and are selected as astronauts are expected to remain with NASA for at least five years. Successful military candidates are detailed to NASA for a specified tour of duty.

Salaries for civilian astronaut candidates are based on the Federal Government's General Schedule pay scales and are set in accordance with each individual's academic achievements and experience.

Pilot astronauts serve as both space shuttle commanders and pilots. During flight, the commander has on-board responsibility for the vehicle, crew, mission success, and safety of flight. The pilot assists the commander in controlling and operating the vehicle and may assist in the deployment and retrieval of satellites using the remote manipulator system.

Mission specialist astronauts work with the commander and the pilot and have overall responsibility for coordinating shuttle operations in the following areas: crew activity planning, consumable usage, and experiment/payload operations. Mission specialists are trained in the details of the orbiter on-board systems, as well as the operational characteristics, mission requirements/objectives and supporting equipment/systems for each of the experiments to be conducted on their assigned missions. Mission specialists perform extravehicular activities and are responsible for payloads and specific experiment operations.

Payload specialists are persons other than NASA astronauts, Including foreign nationals, who have specialized on-board duties. They may be added to shuttle crews if activities that have unique requirements are involved and more than the minimum crew size of five is needed. When payload specialists are required they are nominated by NASA the foreign sponsors, or the designated payload sponsor.


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Updated: February 17, 1999