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Featured Career: Air Traffic Controller

Air Traffic Controller

Radar Map

When you think of an air traffic controller (ATC), you probably visualize someone working in a tall tower at an airport. However, many controllers work at either a Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) facility or at a routing center, which may not be located near an airport. Pilots and air traffic controllers worldwide must speak English to communicate, as required by - The International Civil Aviation Organization. They also have their own flight-related language. This phonetic alphabetic and numerical system, which replaces letters (A to Z) and numbers (zero to nine) with code words, minimizes confusion and misunderstandings between air traffic controllers and pilots.

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Air Traffic Control Station

ATC’s typically monitor and direct multiple aircraft at the same time and must make quick decisions to ensure the safety of all onboard. They monitor movement on the ground and in the air, control all ground traffic at airport runways and taxiways, and issue landing and takeoff instructions to pilots while preserving radio/radar communication with aircraft. Pilots within delegated ranges provide advice, instructions, and information about the ascent and descent paths and weather conditions. Controllers use their skills and judgment to direct more than 70,000 flights daily to their destinations safely. They specialize in either area control, approach, or aerodrome control. Specialization will determine the typical nature of communication with an aircraft.

Map of flights

Because of the pressing nature of this profession and zero margins for error, the training regimen and expertise needed to become an air traffic control specialist are demanding. A controller's job is globally recognized as one of the most stressful jobs, requiring total concentration. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the national annual average wage is $120,830. Employment from 2018 to 2028 is expected to change very little for this vocation. Competition for available jobs is expected to be intense, and those with military experience are expected to have an edge over other candidates. The annual salary for more seasoned controllers who have completed on-the-job training can differ with where the facility is located, the complexity of the airspace, and other factors.

Air Traffic Control Station tower

Applicants looking to become air traffic controllers need to have an associate's or a bachelor's degree from an AT-CTI program. Depending on your experience, the FAA academy normally takes between two to five months to complete. In addition to the academy, on-the-job training is required to become fully certified- taking as little as five years or as long as eight to complete. Tuition can cost between $9,000 and $43,920, depending on the level of the program pursued. No matter how you get started, good vision, a sharp mind, and the ability to think quickly and clearly under pressure are a necessity. The FAA requires that applicants be 30 years of age or younger when they apply, and the retirement age is usually near age 56; this is a precaution to eliminate age-related mental decline. Because so many lives are at stake, humans will always be needed to perform this job to ensure that automated systems function correctly and the technology doesn't malfunction. It's safe to say that this is one job that won't ever solely rely on robots!

By: Jowanna's Corner

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