VALDOSTA, GA (WALB) –The first two students from the Advanced Air Traffic Control school at Valdosta Technical College graduated Thursday.
Last week, they were also evaluated and certified by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Now they're ready to use their skills in the workforce and keep the skies safe and secure.
Ask Jennifer Pierce and Jeremy Stout if air traffic control is stressful and their answer is no.
"How can you be stressed when you love what you do," said Pierce.
"It's stressful if you don't know what your doing, but they teach us at the school to know what to do," said Stout.
It was an emotional time for Pierce as she reflected on the time spent interacting with the teachers and the path she took to get here.
"I'm ready to be an FAA employee and show everyone what this school is all about," said Pierce.
Pierce left Valdosta State University in her third year to pursue this program.
"It's very rewarding," said Pierce.
Stout's father was an air traffic controller.
"I'm really excited real happy to be one of the first graduates," said Stout.
They completed more than 1300 hours in about a year. Just last Tuesday, they were examined by the FAA and received their Control Tower Operator Certificates.
Throughout the program, they took written tests about rules, phraseology, and regulations. They practiced on simulators and spent hours working in the air traffic control tower at the Valdosta Regional Airport.
"We have scheduled flights come in everyday at the same time," said Stout. "Every time it comes in, it's something different. It's either weather, or other planes in the air at the same time."
"They have far exceeded our very, very high expectations," said Mickey Mahaffey, the Executive Vice President of Advanced Air Traffic Control.
And with the training Pierce and Stout now have under their belts they're ready for the next step, a job. Stout wants to stay in the Southeast. Pierce would like to work at a busy airport, maybe in Orlando, Washington, or Charlotte.
The starting salary for an air traffic controller is $40,000 dollars. Thousands of jobs will be available over the next 10 years.