Air Traffic Controller

How to become an Air Traffic Controller
Air Traffic Controller Job Duties
Skills and Qualities needed to excel as an Air Traffic Controller
Air Traffic Controller Salaries
Influential Air Traffic Controllers
Leading Organizations in this field
Top Cities for Air Traffic Controller Jobs
Other Careers of Interest

How to become an Air Traffic Controller

Due to the importance for safety in this position, potential air traffic controllers are screened very carefully. In order to become an air traffic controller, candidates need to complete a schooling program that has been approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and get a recommendation from the school. They must also take a pre-employment examination, and pass a medical evaluation, obtain security clearance, and test negative for drugs.

After all of these prerequisites are met, these candidates are employable as an air traffic controller. Upon employment, new employees next must attend the FAA Academy, located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. During this 12 week period, new air traffic controllers learn all about the operations of airlines and airways, different types of aircraft, air traffic controller equipment, FAA regulations, and anything else that they are required to know before acting as an air traffic controller.

After graduating from the FAA Academy, graduates are assigned to one of the nation's air traffic control facilities as "developmental controllers." They remain in this entry position until they are certified - a process that typically takes between two and four years and involves extensive on the job training and mentorship by more experienced air traffic controllers.

What does an Air Traffic Controller do?

Air traffic controllers can work in a variety of settings, most commonly in airports and air route traffic control centers. Those working in airport towers or terminals are responsible for organizing the flow of air traffic - both commercial and private aircraft - to ensure that the airplanes are far enough apart to be safe but close enough together to be as efficient as possible. Airport tower or terminal controllers also give pilots information about ramps and gates and keep them up to date on any weather or wind conditions that could affect flying.

When planes depart from or arrive at an airport, the pilot communicates with air traffic controllers to find out when it is safe to land or take off or what traffic patter to stay in. Several air traffic controllers work with each aircraft, relying on both radar and sight to determine where the plane is and ensure safety. Permission to land or take off as well as which runway or gate to use is given by these air traffic controllers.

Enroute controllers are stationed at air route traffic control centers located all over the United States. These air traffic controllers are responsible for airplanes flying along their designated routes. Planes are monitored to make sure that they are not entering the airspace at the same time and location and controllers give pilots information about weather and flying conditions. As the plane passes through different sections of airspace with different teams of controllers, the teams must also communicate with each other.

Although most air traffic controllers work in air route traffic control centers or airport towers, some are employed in flight service stations. These controllers use their information to provide aircraft pilots with suggested routes, weather along the flight path, and any other factors that may impact the flight. They also aid pilots in emergency situations and perform searches for missing aircraft.

What skills or qualities are needed to become an Air Traffic Controller?

Air traffic controllers must be poised, intelligent, analytical, and quick thinking due to the fact they must constantly absorb and decipher information. In addition to those qualities, air traffic controllers must have excellent communication skills, as this information must be passed on to pilots, and airport personnel clearly and quickly. An air traffic controller needs to be someone who is able to make fast and sound decisions; a skill that is constantly required in this profession, and who can concentrate in a noisy or distracting environment. This job comes with a great deal of mental energy and stress and can exhaust people quickly.

How much can Air Traffic Controllers make?

Because of the rigorous screening and training process for air traffic controllers, those who succeed in entering the field generally have excellent job security. The pay is considered to be relatively high given the amount of training or schooling needed for this field, with the median salary in 2006 being $117,240. In the same year, the middle 50 percent of all air traffic controllers employed in the United States made between $86,860 and $142,210. Air traffic controllers are one group of employees that tends to make more money when working for the Federal government. In addition to their high salaries, air traffic controllers receive more benefits than most Federal employees, with more vacation days and an earlier retirement age.

Who are some influential Professionals in this field?

Robert Sturgell has been the head of the FAA since 2007, after serving in the FAA as the Deputy Administrator for four years. He was both a military and civilian pilot earlier in his career, working as an instructor at the United States Navy Fighter Weapons School and a flight operations supervisor for United Airlines.

Who are some leading organizations in this field?

The FAA employs the vast majority of the 25,000 or so air traffic controllers employed in the United States. The FAA, one agency under the United States Department of Transportation, was created in 1958 and is responsible for all civil aviation in the United States. The FAA helps develop new aeronautical technology, regulates all commercial flights in the United States, operates the air traffic control system, and regulates civil aviation. In 2007, the FAA administrator, Marion Blakey, received criticism for cutting back on the number of air traffic controllers were in control towers at any given time. She was replaced in September, 2007 by Robert Sturgell.

What are the top cities for Air Traffic Controller Jobs?

Air traffic controllers have the best job prospects in cities with large airports, such as Chicago Illinois (Chicago O'Hare International); Atlanta Georgia (Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International); Dallas (Dallas/Fort Worth International); and Los Angeles California (Los Angeles International). In addition, the Air National Guard employs a good number of air traffic controllers, and has units in many cities across the country.

Other Careers of Interest

Air Traffic Controller Jobs

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