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Job Overview of an Air Traffic Controller
Air traffic controllers are responsible for the safety and routing of planes by using a variety of equipment, such as radars and computers. Individuals are responsible for using radars to track movement, authorize takeoffs and landings, as well as course changes. Air traffic controllers must be attentive and competent, as they are responsible for accident prevention and safety. The primary responsibility of an air traffic controller is safety followed by the efficient flow of transportation vehicles and people across the entire airport system. The typical job duties of an air traffic controller include the following:
- Providing information to pilots and crew
- Issuing landing and take-off clearances
- Scheduling arrival and departures at a designated airport
- Providing flight path alternatives and directives
- Communicating weather changes to pilots and crew members
- Transfer information to emergency response teams, as needed
- Controlling flow of planes, airport personnel, and baggage vehicles
Different Types of Air Traffic Controllers
There are three different types of air traffic controllers in a typical airport setting. The roles are broken down by tower duties, traveling, and air space controllers. A brief overview of each type of air traffic controller is listed below to help you more effectively select college degree programs that fit you best.
Air Space: An arrival and departure air traffic controller will be charged with the responsibility of all aircraft within an airport's air space. They will dictate aircraft flow, separation, weather notices, and clearance for aircraft vehicles. An arrival and departure air traffic controller uses radar technology to manage flight information and generally work at an airport's TRACON (Terminal Radar Approach Control Center).
Tower Controllers: An air traffic controller that works in an airport tower on-site, is responsible for the flow of aircraft, vehicles, and people at a specific airport. As the name indicates, they work from control towers as they need to visually observe traffic flow in conjunction with specific communication devices and airport instrumentation. A tower controller will provide pilots and crew with flight plans, weather updates, provide clearance, and direct movement of vehicles for an specific airline carrier.
External Controllers: An external air traffic controller is a specialist that works to manage the aircraft traveling to and from airports not within a defined airport's air space. External air traffic controllers will typically work at route traffic control centers across the country which is a centralized hub versus being on-site at a specific airport.
Education and Schools in Air Traffic Control
Individuals wishing to become air traffic controllers must be American citizens and receive a degree in the field from a school that has been accredited by the Federal Aviation Administration. Individuals may receive an associate's or bachelor's degree, or may substitute some, most, or all of that education through previous education through the armed services. Once completed, individuals will need to pass an FAA exam in order to be eligible for employment.
A curriculum may include:
- Aviation Technology
- Energy and Propulsion
- Aviation Operations and Management
- Air Traffic Control
- Control Tower Operations
Individuals will look for schools that have access to equipment that best represent or emulate real world situations in order to become familiar with operations. It is important to note that individuals need to graduate from an FAA accredited school, as non-accredited school educations will be ineligible for the exam required to find employment. Additional information regarding accreditation and examination, as well as general information regarding air traffic control regulations may be found at the Federal Aviation Administration website.
Schools Other Students Requested Information From:
Air traffic control is not expected to see increases in job growth over the next decade due to extensive hires over the last decade. Most job opening are expected to result from the retiring of current air traffic controllers. Individuals in this field work at airports and airstrips, and can be found in both civilian and military locations. The field requires individuals to be knowledgeable about planes, their capabilities, and how to guide them from a distance.
The Air Traffic Control Association is a professional organization established in 1956 to protect and advance the interests of individuals in this field, as well as provide resources for their benefit.