From the highest point on Vaughn College of Aeronautics’ East Elmhurst campus, students can get a clear view of their future.
The school’s “control tower” — an observation deck several stories high designed like an airport control tower looks down on busy Runway 4 at LaGuardia Airport. From here, the entire length of the runway can be seen, as can planes taking off and landing. Inside the observation deck are speakers which play a live feed of air traffic control at LaGuardia’s tower, less than a quarter mile away.
“Teachers sometimes take us up here to listen and get an idea of what it’s like in a real control tower,” said Vaughn student James Converso, 20, a licensed pilot from the Bronx.
That connection between the college campus on 23rd Avenue and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey-operated airport across the street is not where their partnership ends.
The PANYNJ has a strong relationship with Vaughn, which attracts students not only from the New York area, but as far away as China, and helps them obtain internships and jobs.
“The future of our airport operations depend on the expertise of our next generation of aviation managers and leaders,” said Port Authority spokeswoman Erica Dumas. “Which is one of the many reasons why the Port Authority works closely with this institution and it’s students.”
Yichuan Luo is one of those students who came from far away to attend Vaughn, which has roughly 1,700 students. The native of Shanghai, China, who went to high school in California, came to Vaughn after an exhaustive search nationwide.
“I knew I wanted to go to a big city,” he said.
Luo, an airport management major, has applied for an internship at the Port Authority.
Students also connect to the agency outside of internships and work.
Vaughn’s Corporate Programs feature live, traditional classes telecast from the classrooms, offering face-to-face instruction from Port Authority employees.
Students also have access to experts in the field right on campus.
Phil Rodgers, a former air traffic controller at Islip MacArthur Airport in Suffolk County, instructs students at a mock ATC control tower and radar site on campus.
Using the software, students can guide planes into and out of a fake airport, called “Academy Airport,” and learn the language air traffic controllers use and gain experience before putting on the headsets at a real control tower or ATC site.
“The students spent a lot of time here getting comfortable and gaining experience with the lingo used and the different weather conditions,” Rodgers said.
Besides Vaughn, the Port Authority also works with several other schools in the New York area, including York College, to help students gain professional experience and get jobs within the agency or in the industry.