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What Is it Like to Be an Air Traffic Controller?

The Ultimate in Safety, Service and Satisfaction

How often do you consider what happens behind the scenes to make your airplane flights go off without a hitch? We are familiar with what pilots and the rest of the cabin crew must do, as well as mechanics, baggage handlers, security screeners and a variety of support staff. Without a talented team of air traffic controllers looking out for each aircraft and every passenger, international flights would no longer be a routine affair.

With that in mind, it’s useful to consider what it’s actually like to be an air traffic controller. A recent interview in the Telegraph provides information from Fran Slater, who has worked at air traffic control company NATS holding for 20 years.

Slater applied for a position as an air traffic controller straight of university. She thought she would give it a try for six months, and soon learned that she was well suited for the position and fell in love with the work. In addition to having the necessary math and English skills, air traffic controller candidates must take part in a great deal of psychometric testing in order to be qualified.

Training takes approximately one year, and the controllers go to college to learn more about aviation theory. While studying in books, the students spend time in simulators and visit airfields as they learn about different aircraft, airlines around the world and the laws that govern them. 

Later, they get on-the-job training in the control tower or in a radar center, where they keep their eyes fixed on computer displays that show them the location of each airplane they need to keep track of and direct. Air traffic controllers are also prepared for high-stress situations, such as a passenger becoming ill during a flight or a problem with the equipment. High standards keep them functioning coolly under the pressure of emergencies.

The next time you board a plane, remember the hard work being done on your behalf by all of the talented air traffic controllers at the airports where you take off and land. Knowing the experience and knowledge required to do their jobs should give you a greater appreciation for their efforts to keep us all safe in the skies.

Posted on Mar 13 2015

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