Air traffic control refers to the process by which aircraft are guided through airspace to avoid collisions and also on the ground to ensure safe takeoff and landings. Air traffic control exists to ensure the safety of all persons involved in air travel including airborne staff and passengers, ground crew and any other persons in the direct vicinity of airports. Airspaces in many countries are made up of an intrinsic network of air routes and boundaries which are controlled by that particular country’s regulatory aviation body. The air traffic control system employs the use of highly qualified air traffic controllers and advanced, high tech, control equipment in order to make sure that safety standards are adhered to and that air traffic flows smoothly and without any delays and mishaps.
What does an Air Traffic Controller Do?
Air traffic controllers manage the movement of aircraft in airports and airspaces in order to ensure efficient traffic flow, minimize delays and prevent accidents. They typically perform the following duties:
- Instruct pilots when to land and take off and assign runways to incoming and outgoing aircraft.
- Control airport ground traffic.
- Provide pilots and other airborne staff with critical information such as weather reports, information about closed or obstructed runways as well as providing alternative routes in case of emergency landings and other eventualities.
- Use routers, radar equipment, computers and maps to control and manage the movement of planes both on the ground and in the air.
There are different types of air traffic controllers including tower, approach and departure, as well as en route controllers. Each of these controllers specializes in a particular area of air traffic control such as the direction of ground traffic in airports, the control and monitoring of airspace to prevent collisions, clearing aircraft for landing and takeoff and many other duties. Air traffic controllers perform an important and critical function to ensure planes stay safely in the air and land safely on the ground without harming any of the persons aboard the aircraft or on the ground.
How to become an air traffic controller
To become an air traffic controller here in the states, one must meet the following basic requirements:
- Be a citizen of the United States
- Pass a medical test approved by the Federal Aviation Administration Authority.
- Complete a Federal Aviation Administration approved training or education program. The FAA approved program is referred to as Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative or the AT-CTI program and while the syllabus is not standardized, it must contain courses relevant to aviation.
- Obtain security clearance from the relevant authorities.
- Be not more than 31 years of age at the time of starting the FAA training program.
- Speak English at a level clear enough to be understood over communications equipment.
- Possess three years relevant work experience, or a Bachelors degree in an aviation related program, or a combination of post secondary education and experience totaling no less than 3 years.
Air traffic control is a growing field that will see job openings increase as older workers retire and younger workers move in to take over their vacant positions. Anyone possessing a degree in aviation or considerable experience in air traffic control will be best placed to take advantage of these opportunities.