What Does an Air Traffic Controller Do?
Before you dive into becoming an air traffic controller, there are a couple of things you need to know. First, anyone that has no previous air traffic control experience must be 30 years of age or younger. And second, the Federal Government employs a majority of air traffic controllers, so you will need to pass a test and go through a rigorous training program, not to mention an extensive background check.
Once controllers have gone through training, they can begin their careers. Air traffic controllers work within the National Airspace System (NAS) to coordinate the movement of air traffic, as well as ensure safety or air passengers. Controllers direct planes to manage the efficiency of flight landings and takeoffs, therefore ensuring that there are little delays in schedules. Some controllers will regulate the air traffic through designated airspace, while others will do so through airports.
All in all, the nation's air traffic controllers' job is to ensure the safety of aviation passengers. According to the National Air Traffic Control Association, air traffic controllers keep approximately two million passengers safe per day - or one billion people per year. Taking it one step further, that means that controllers will, in one year, help to keep more than 60 million aircraft arrive safely at their destinations.
There are several types of air traffic controllers, but on a basic level, there are three main categories: tower controllers, terminal radar approach controllers, and en route controllers. Each one will have a specific job and task in helping planes land, fly, and takeoff safely. Additionally, jobs will differ depending on which airport or airspace you work, how busy the airport is, as well as your years of experience. Most people don't truly understand all of the behind-the-scenes work that air traffic controllers are responsible for.
Work Environment and Schedule
A typical week for an air traffic controller is the regular 40 hours, but they also do work overtime for extra pay. Air traffic controllers have very stressful jobs as they are responsible for the safety of millions of lives each day. A controller job requires focus and control, and an ability to do a lot of things at once, such as managing an arrival and a departure at the same time. An air traffic controller's job will be in an environment with a lot of pressure. They will need to understand that there is no margin for error in their work.