An air traffic controller is accountable for directing planes and helicopters in the air ensuring their safety. They have to keep planes at a safe distance, advise landing, and alert planes to the potential problem. They coordinate the movement of aircraft maintaining a safe distance between them. They work on the ground at airports from the control tower and area control centers. They instruct pilots in landing and taking off managing the communication between control centers and pilot and updating about the adverse condition that may affect the flight safety. The air traffic controllers usually work full time often rotating the shift between day and night.

What does an air traffic controller do?

The air traffic controller is responsible for handling various duties.

  • Coordinating the movement of the plane with the air traffic control room
  • Coordinating the arrival and departure of the plane
  • Issuing landing and take-off instructions to pilots
  • Monitoring the movement of aircraft using radar equipment
  • Authorizing the path change and providing weather updates to pilot
  • Alerting the airport response staff about an aircraft emergency
  • Directing plans to minimize delays
  • Managing multiple airlines at a time
  • Managing the flow of airplanes in and out of the airport
  • Providing pilot information about weather condition
  • Monitoring plane once they leave airport airspace
  • Keeping the traffic level manageable for the airport and en route controllers
  • Moving the plane safely and efficiently through the assigned sector of airspace
  • Communicate with pilots of aircraft using radiotelephony system
  • Control the aircraft with the immediate vicinity of the airport and use visual observation from the airport tower

There are multiple types of aircraft controller and they are:

Tower controllers – The aircraft controller directs the movement of all vehicles including aircraft that are on taxiways and runways.

Approach and depart controllers – The professionals need to ensure the aircraft traveling in the airspace surrounding will maintain minimum separation for safety purposes.

En-route controllers – the air traffic controller monitors air crafts after they leave airport airspace.

Steps to become an aircraft controller

Step 1: Meet the requirement

The candidate needs to be less than 30 years old to enter into the profession of an air traffic controller. They must have prior experience in this field before they turn 31. FAA will not train candidates who have no prior experience and older than 30. FAA only accepts US citizens for its training program. Candidate must meet education and experience requirements.

  • Candidate must have continuous years of experience as a civilian or military air traffic controller.
  • They must hold 3 years of experience, a bachelor’s degree, or a combination of work experience and college study. The FAA considers a year of college which includes 30 semester hours and your experience should show you can handle the duties of an air traffic controller. ree
  • You may complete FAA air traffic college training 2 or 4-year program and receive an official recommendation from the school whose program you have attended.

Step 2: Pursue an education

If you are not controlling planes in the military, you may consider two paths. First, you may get hired directly by the FAA, secondly, you may complete the AT-CTI program. It is either 2 years of the 4-year program and you will be expedited through the process. Nest you will be asked to take the AT-SAT program. The written test will be a comprehensive, computer-administered test created to assess your ability to learn how to become an air traffic controller. If you scored above 70 you may get placed on to the referral list. If you scored 70, you will be considered as qualified and if you scored 85 and above, you are deemed well-qualified. Once you get into the referral list, you will receive notice to move further through a PEPC or you may get interviewed at a local facility. You will get notice to fill out your e-QIP. It is just a questionnaire you have to fill out and it is the step that has to be completed before the government issues a security check. If you are a terminal applicant, you need to fill out SF-85. The candidate then must pass the MMPI-2 and it is pretty standard for all FAA, DOD, and CIA jobs. It is identifying your personality structure and your psychopathology.

Step 3: Get prepared for employment

The candidate needs to pass the physical examination and drug screening. You need to be able to handle the physical rigors of being an air traffic controller. FAA also hire disabled veterans for this role. The candidate must pass a security clearance and get through the FAA interview. If you don’t have previous experience you must go through the FAA testing and interview process. The questions will be fairly straightforward. Once the whole process is over, you will get your TOL. This guarantees your employment and you have passed all the background checks. After it is been cleared the HR will inform you when you can start your classes. Every new ATC has to attend the FAA academy before they begin work.

Step 4: Start your career

Graduate from the FAA academy and the academy will train candidates to pass the test for 12 weeks, the fundamental of being an air traffic controller. The course covers FAA regulations, the airway system, how the aircraft performance, and the use of equipment on the job. Candidates who have graduated from the AT-CTI program can bypass the first 5 weeks of the academy. Candidates will be certified as an air traffic controller. FAA academy graduates will be assigned as developmental controllers under the supervision of an experienced air traffic controller. New controllers can be expected certified within 2 to 4 years depending on their performance.

The job as an air traffic controller can be quite intense and you need to focus the entire time on your job. You will be presented with many stressful situations but stay calm.

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