Aspiring air traffic controllers should steer clear of seminars aimed at helping people get a top score on entrance exams for the job, the Federal Aviation Administration has said.
But a company that offers the seminars and will be in Salt Lake City next week signing up interested individuals said the FAA shouldn't be concerned."We are just trying to offer people an opportunity," said Dave Everett, an instructor with Hi-Tech Research, based in Douglasville, Ga.
He compared Hi-Tech's service to other courses that help people improve their performance on entrance exams for college or graduate school.
"Rather than have the test beat you, we help you get through it," Everett said.
But the FAA said preparatory courses for the entrance exam tend to mask an applicant's realistic chances of succeeding as a controller. Applicants must go through a rigorous screening and training program before being considered.
"First scores on the exam are good predictors of each person's potential to pass the screening program," said FAA spokesman Mitch Barker in Seattle. "It has been our experience that those applicants who have taken test practice courses fail the screening process at a greater rate than those who do not formally prepare for the exam."
Hi-Tech was in Salt Lake City more than a week ago promoting its service and the air traffic controller profession. On March 6, company representatives will return to Salt Lake City to collect $395 from those interested in attending the seminar and receiving study materials to prepare for the exam.
Orem resident Tim Hale attended the orientation session and said presenters not only guaranteed a high score on the Special Civil Service Entrance Exam but promised employment too.
Hale also said Hi-Tech claimed air traffic controllers could earn up to $100,000 a year within five years. He said he called the FAA and found Hi-Tech's claims unfounded and exaggerated.
But Everett said Hi-Tech did not intend to mislead Hale or anyone else. He explained that the $100,000-a-year salary is a misunderstanding. The salary scale of air traffic controllers may be changed within the next five years, Everett said, so that top-scale pay could be $100,000 a year.
Hi-Tech has a money-back guarantee if a student does not score 90 percent or higher on the entrance exam.
If an applicant scores 90 percent or higher on the exam, he is placed on a waiting list for interviews and a psychological exam to determine if he is fit for training. The FAA said about 60 percent of those accepted for training at its air traffic controller academy in Oklahoma City complete the four-month course.
For those who misunderstood and want to reconsider after paying their money, Everett said Hi-Tech will refund all but $50.