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Air Traffic Controller

Air Traffic Controllers coordinate air traffic to prevent collisions and accidents. They must be articulate, have a good memory, be able to concentrate, and be intelligent. The take off and landing procedures that Air Traffic Controllers orchestrate are complex. As an aircraft nears the air port it contacts the terminal to let them know they are approaching. Then a controller that works in the radar room either clears it for landing or puts it into a holding pattern. After it is cleared, the aircrafts responsibility is passed on to the tower where it is monitored as it lands and other aircraft that would interfere are delayed. After it has landed, the aircraft is passed on to the ground controller that directs it along the taxiway to exit the air strip. The process is reversed for takeoffs. Air Traffic Controllers need to be able to do mental math quickly and accurately. Part of their job is directing aircraft at what altitude and speed to fly. An error in these directions could be fatal so a strong math background is important. Compounding it, controllers are usually in charge of several aircraft at a time. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is the main employer for Air Traffic Controllers but they can also work for the military, the US Department of Defense, or private air traffic control companies. To work for the FAA you must have 4 years of college and be admitted into the FAA Academy. If you graduate and pass an examination you can be hired. After you are hired you still have to complete several years of work and more classes to become a fully qualified controller. A yearly physical, biannual evaluations, and drug testing are also a requirement once you have been hired. In 2000, Air Traffic Controllers earned between $40,000 and $113,000 a year.

Used with the permission of the Naval Safety Center

Image courtesy of South Bend Regional Airport

Image used with permission of How Stuff Works


Federal Aviation Administration

How to become an Air Traffic Controller

US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics - Occupational Outlook Handbook

Federal Aviation Administration Academy

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   Catharine H. Colwell
Application Programmers
   Jeremy R. Blawn
   Mark Acton
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