Air Traffic Controller

An air traffic controller works from control towers, approach control..

Air Traffic Controller

What does a Air Traffic Controller do?

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An air traffic controller works from control towers, approach control facilities, or route centers to give aircraft clearances to take off or land safely. They coordinate air traffic patterns to assure that aircrafts are safe distances apart. They have the responsibility of keeping aircrafts, flight crews, and airline passengers safe therefore are authorized to change flight paths as necessary.

How to Become an Air Traffic Controller

air traffic controller

Prior to receiving official training as an air traffic controller, you are required to have some sort of formal education or employment experience. This can include a bachelors degree, related work experience, or a combination of the two with a minimum of three years total. Once you meet those requirements you can apply to become an air traffic controller.

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In order to become an air traffic controller you must complete several steps. First you must attend an Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI) program, then you must pass various assessments, and only then are you considered for a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) training program. These pre-employment requirements, training programs, and tests have specific guidelines set by the FAA. AT-CTI programs can last anywhere from 2-4 years and designed to educate applicants hoping for jobs in the air traffic control industry. Training includes reading maps, aviation weather patterns, federal regulations, airspace allowances, flying clearances, and other relevant information regarding aviation.

An applicant must also pass a personality test and an aviation aptitude test. These tests determine your skills and behavioral response patterns. In addition there is a medical exam and a background check you must pass. You are required to be a United States citizen and enter the program prior to turning 31 years old. Once all of these requirements are successfully met, you can be considered for the FAA training program. This is the last step to entering this occupational industry. It is a rigorous program that includes aviation coursework and hands on experience. The program’s training length varies pending on the position you are seeking.

Job Description of an Air Traffic Controller

An air traffic controller is responsible for controlling all ground traffic at airports. This include incoming and outgoing planes, airport workers, maintenance, and baggage vehicles. They issue landing and take off instructions to pilots and monitor and/or direct aircraft movements both in the air and the on ground through the use of computers, visual references, and radars. Air traffic controllers oversee communications by accepting incoming flights and transferring control of departing flights to other traffic control centers. They must provide weather updates or other relevant information to pilots and be ready to authorize necessary flight path changes. An air traffic controller must be skilled in math, problem-solving, communication, and decision making.

In the event of an emergency, the air traffic controller must notify proper authorities and alert emergency response staff as soon as possible. He or she must have total concentration, be able to multi-task, and are on constant alert. It can be very stressful at times due to the responsibility of the safety of aircrafts, it’s crew, and airline passengers. Air traffic controllers must be able to be focused and concentrate for long periods of times and usually work full-time. Hours and days vary to include shift work, nights, and weekends.

Air Traffic Controller Career Resources

For teachers, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) has put together free classroom materials including a fun math activity for grades 5-9. Visit the website’s kids corner page (link opens in a new tab).

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