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AVIATOR Terms and Definitions

Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI):

A program, provided for by Public Law, that allows the Administrator to establish agreements with post-secondary educational institutions, to prepare students for the position of air traffic controller with the FAA.

Appointing authority:

All Human Resource Management Officers (HRMOs) and other individuals delegated the authority to make appointments to positions in the FAA by signing official personnel actions.

Appropriate vacancy:

An unencumbered position, which has a current and properly classified position description and is currently authorized and funded for the LOB.

Area of consideration:

Area within which the agency makes an intensive search for eligible candidates when filling a position either through competitive promotion under Permanent Internal Assignment or through External Hiring competitive procedures. The area may be limited to categories of candidates based on eligibility for certain types of appointments, e.g., current FAA employees, reinstatement eligibles, transfer eligibles, VRA eligibles, etc. The area of consideration may be geographic based on typical commuting patterns or, for internal recruitment, based on organizational unit. The area may be a combination of categories and geographic areas, e.g. current FAA employees in the XYZ Line of Business nationwide or permanent current and former federal employees in the XYZ commuting area.

Certified Professional Controller:

A controller who is fully certified in the Air Traffic Services.


Citizens in the United States include those who were: born in the United States (the fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam [since 1950], or the U.S. Virgin Islands); born outside the United States to parents who are citizens of the United States, one of which was physically present in the United States or one of its outlying possessions for a continuous period of one year at any time prior to the birth of the person (in some situations only one parent has to be a citizen); naturalized as a United States citizen; or otherwise granted citizenship under authorities described in law, beginning at 8 U.S.C. 1401.

Commuting area:

One or more population centers in which people live and can reasonably be expected to travel back and forth daily to their usual place of employment.

Competitive selection process:

Procedures under the Internal or External hiring process that require applicants to compete for placement on the selection list.

Competitive service:

All civilian positions in the executive branch of the Federal Government not specifically excepted from the civil service laws (USC and CFR) and not in the Senior Executive Service, as well as positions in the legislative and judicial branches of the Federal Government and in the DC government specifically made subject to the civil service laws by statute. The FAA was in the competitive service until March 31, 1996.

Cost of Living Adjustment:

In addition to base salary, a COLA percentage is authorized depending on where the job is located. COLA is currently tax-free for Federal income tax purposes.

Duty location:

The geographic location of an employee's official duty station. The geographic location of an employee's duty station is not necessarily the same as the rest of the organizational unit to which he/she is assigned.

En Route Option:

Air Traffic Control Specialists at FAA Air Route Traffic Control Centers (ARTCCs) give aircraft instructions, air traffic clearances, and advice regarding flight conditions while en route between airports. They provide separation between aircraft flying along the Federal airways or operating into or out of airports not served by a terminal facility. Center controllers use radar, or in some cases, manual procedures to track the progress of all instrument flights within the center's airspace. Where radar coverage is available and their workload permits, en route controllers also provide radar service to pilots who are not on instrument flight plans, alerting them to potential traffic conflicts. When aircraft enter adjacent facility airspace, controllers transfer control of aircraft to controllers in adjacent centers, approach controls, or terminals.

Excepted service:

all positions in the executive branch of the Federal Government which are specifically excepted from the competitive service and which are not in the Senior Excepted Service.

External Applicants:

Applicants who must apply for positions under External hiring procedures because they do not meet the requirements for eligibility under Internal assignment. Also in this category are applicants who are eligible to apply for positions under Internal assignment procedures, but elect to apply for positions under External hiring procedures. This category of applicant is treated, for selection purposes, the same as all other external applicants.

External competitive procedures:

Procedures used in External hiring that require competition among qualified applicants based on job related criteria. The results of competition determine who will be referred for selection consideration.

External hiring procedures:

Procedures used for referring and selecting external applicants.

Federal Aviation Personnel Manual (FAPM):

A manual containing the rules, regulations, and operating guidance governing personnel management and administration throughout the Federal Aviation Administration.

Federal Aviation Service (FAS):

Under Personnel Reform the FAS is the FAA's replacement for the Office of Personnel Management's traditional competitive civil service. As of April 1, 1996, FAA employees are members of the FAS and as such, are not subject to most of the rules governing the competitive civil service.

Financial Disclosure Information:

FAA policy limits certain employment and financial investments in aviation-related companies. Applicants selected may be required to file a financial disclosure statement within 30 days of entry on duty.

Human Resource Policy Manual (HRPM):

The FAA's manual for non-bargaining unit employees and positions, as well as to areas outside the scope of negotiations that contains national "corporate" human resources policies and guidance. The HRPM replaces all previous forms of HR policy guidance in the subject areas it covers.

Individual Development Plan (IDP):

A jointly developed written plan by an employee and his/her supervisor detailing training, work assignments and other developmental activities designed to assist the employee progress in a current or future career field.

Internal competitive procedures:

Process whereby candidates compete through Merit Promotion procedures for selection to FAA positions. Although mostly used for promotion actions, such procedures may be used for reinstatements, change to lower grades, temporary internal assignments, etc.

Internal Applicants:

Current FAA employees or applicants with reinstatement or transfer status.

Locality Pay:

In addition to base salary, Federal salaries may include a Locality Pay adjustment which varies by from 10% to 25%, depending on where the job is located.

Maximum Entry Age:

A maximum age of 30 years is established for entry into civilian Air Traffic Control Specialist (ATCS) positions in the Federal Aviation Administration whose duties require the employee be actively engaged in the separation and control of air traffic. This includes the positions of immediate supervisors of any employees actively engaged in the separation and control of air traffic. Persons who have reached their 31st birthdays may not be originally appointed to ATCS positions in the FAA. If an individual were to have previously held a terminal, or en route ATCS position, then he/she might be re-employed if over age 31. The maximum entry age provision precludes any other appointment or action placing a person age 31 or older into an ATCS position for the first time.

Maximum Retention Age:

5 USC 8335(a) and 5 USC 8425(a) require mandatory separation at age 56 in a career controller position. Under this provision, separation shall take place on the last day of the month in which a career controller becomes 56 years of age. The law does provide for some exemptions.

Merit principles:

Principles that require selections be based on merit, applicants receive equitable treatment, employees be retained based on performance, training be provided as appropriate, employees be protected from favoritism and reprisal, etc.

Merit promotion announcements:

Vacancy announcements issued to solicit job applications from applicants eligible under competitive internal assignment procedures or, in some cases, applicants eligible under on-the-spot hiring authorities.

Minimum Area of Consideration:

The narrowest area for advertising vacancies and soliciting applications. For Internal Assignments, the minimum area of consideration is the organizational unit under the purview of the selecting official.

Nonpreference eligible veteran:

A veteran of the United States Armed Forces who is not entitled to veterans' preference in External hiring because he/she fails to met the eligibility criteria identified in 5 USC 2108.

On-the-spot Hiring Authority:

A special hiring authority, covering certain categories of positions and/ or candidates, which allows selecting officials to fill covered jobs or hire covered candidates without using competitive procedures, such as announcing the job and rating and ranking candidates.


An FAA line of business (LOB) or staff office whose top management official reports directly to the Administrator.

Outstanding scholar:

An applicant who has graduated from an accredited 4 year college or university and who possesses an overall GPA of 3.45 or higher, or who was in the top 10% of the graduating class.

Preference eligible:

A veteran, spouse, widow, or mother who meets the definition of preference eligible outlined in 5 USC 2108.

Probationary period:

The one-year period in which new FAA employees who have not previously successfully completed a probationary period are assessed to determine whether their performance and conduct demonstrates fitness for continued employment in the FAA.

Qualification standard:

The experience, education, training or physical requirements that an employee or applicant must meet in order to be placed on a position.

Quality Ranking Factors:

Additional special requirements that could be expected to significantly enhance the effectiveness of the person selected for the position but, unlike selective factors, are not essential for satisfactory performance. Applicants who possess the quality ranking factors may be ranked above those who do not, but no one can be rated ineligible solely for failure to possess a quality ranking factor.


The process of evaluating a candidate's experience, education, and/or training to determine whether he/she meets the established qualification standards for a position.

Reasonable accommodation:

A logical change or adjustment to a job or work site that makes it possible for an otherwise qualified employee with disabilities to perform the essential functions of a position. Reasonable accommodation is required unless it can be demonstrated that it would cause an undue hardship on the agency.

Recruitment bulletin:

A vacancy announcement prepared under the external hiring process and designed to solicit external applicants.

Referral list:

A list of candidates eligible for selection consideration under internal or external hiring procedures. An external referral list may also be called a "certificate of eligibles".


Pool of eligible candidates from which some or all may be placed on a referral list for selection consideration. Although a register typically consists of candidates under external hiring, FAA employees or other candidates eligible for internal placement may also apply for inclusion on a register and be considered as external.


The reemployment of an individual, under Internal assignment procedures, to a FAA position based on their previous status as an employee with a federal or quasi-federal agency. Three categories of individuals have reinstatement eligibility without time limitation. They are: (1) former permanent FAA employees; (2) former competitive career or career-conditional employees who completed a one year probationary period; and (3) former excepted service employees who completed a one year probationary/trial period.

Retired Military Air Traffic Controllers Program:

Special Appointing Authority established for individuals that meet two criteria: 1) are on terminal leave pending retirement from active duty military service, or have retired from active duty military service, on or after September 17, 1999; and 2) have received either Air Traffic Control Specialist certification or a facility rating according to FAA standards. Appointments are made under time limited appointments into covered positions. Under no circumstances will persons remain in these positions past the last day of the month that they become 56 years of age.

Rule of three:

Rule applied when selecting from a numerically ranked External referral list (also called "certificate"). Rule is applied when a preference eligible is reached on an external referral list and requires the selecting official to select from among the three highest numerically ranked and available eligibles.

Selection Priority Program (SPP):

Prior to filling an appropriate and available vacancy, any applicable Priority Considerations list maintained by the Human Resource Management Division (HRMD) must be reviewed for available qualified and eligible individuals in accordance with Human Resource Policy Manual (HRPM), Selection Priority, EMP-1.9.

Selective placement factors:

Knowledge's, skills and abilities essential for satisfactory performance in the position to be filled. Selective placement factors represent an addition to the basic qualification standard for the position (e.g., requirement to speak or write in a language other than English) an applicant must possess them in order to be considered qualified.

Service connected disability:

A disability connected to a person's service in the Armed Forces. Determinations on service-connected disabilities are made by the Department of Veteran's Affairs or a military department. Service-connected disabilities can be "compensable" (i.e. 10% or more) or "noncompensable" (less than 10%).

Special appointing authority:

A method of hiring an external candidate noncompetitively, using the on-the-spot hiring authority for the following special appointments. Example: - Outstanding scholars, Air Traffic - Collegiate Training Initiative (CTI) students, FAA student Intern Program, any other appointments authorized by the FAA and/or U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) (i.e. Veterans' Readjustment Appointment (VRA), 30 Percent or more disabled veterans, appointments of individual with severe disabilities, etc). If you are unsure of your appointment type please contact your Servicing HR Office.


For purposes of FAA policy, "students" are students in high school, vocational and technical schools, associate or baccalaureate degree programs, and graduate programs who are enrolled or accepted for enrollment as degree-seeking students, are at least the minimum employment age under federal, state, or local laws, taking at least a half-time course load as defined by their institution, and maintaining a 2.0 GPA on a 4.0 or equivalent scale.

Supervisory/managerial probationary period:

A one-year probationary period which first time supervisors and first time managers must serve.

Target/journeyman grade level:

Full performance grade level/grade level to which an employee can be promoted without further competition.

Terminal Option:

Terminal controllers control air traffic at airports. They give pilots taxiing and takeoff instructions, air traffic clearances, and advice based on their own observations and information from the National Weather Service, Air Route Traffic Control Centers (ARTCCs), flight service stations, pilots, and other sources. They provide separation between landing and departing aircraft. They transfer control of aircraft to the ARTCC controller when aircraft leave their airspace, and they receive control of aircraft coming into their airspace from controllers at adjacent facilities. Air traffic controllers must be familiar with the aircraft identification and positions of the aircraft under their control, aircraft types and speeds, and the location of navigational aids and landmarks in the area.


The movement, without a break in service of one full workday, of a permanent employee from another federal or quasi-federal agency to the FAA.

Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures:

A set of requirements adopted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Department of Labor, Civil Service Commission, and Department of Justice to ensure that practices or policies that have an adverse impact on employment opportunities of any race, sex, or ethnic group are illegal unless justified by business necessity. The Guidelines establish a measurement for "adverse impact" and set forth technical standards for validation of selection instruments.

Well-qualified eligible:

A person who meets all the basic qualification requirements for a position AND also is clearly capable of performing the job in a superior manner. The determination that a candidate is "well-qualified" is made based on an evaluation of the individual's background against job related criteria. "Well-qualified" is one designation used for grouping candidates for selection purposes.