Ever wondered how planes travel in the air and never clash with each other like cars do? The safety of planes and their passengers lie in the hands of air traffic controllers. Air traffic controllers are professionals who are in charge of how air traffic moves so that planes can maintain a safe distance between each other.
In addition to ensuring safety of planes and their passengers, air traffic controllers are also responsible for ensuring that planes are not delayed and that they depart from their destinations and alight at their destinations at the allocated times. There are different types of air traffic controllers, each performing special roles. The terminal controllers are in charge of planes when they are in an airport’s airspace. The main duty of terminal controllers is to ensure a smooth movement of airplanes into and out of airports.
They mainly do so by observing. If all is well, they sequence the arriving airplane to land and give clearances for the departing airplanes. They also give advice to pilots about weather and runway conditions so that accidents resulting from such conditions can be avoided (Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, 2011).
Before a plane leaves an airport, many different air traffic controllers are involved in the process. For instance, the tower flight data controller makes use of the data plan for departure to organize the departure procedure in sequence.
The clearance controller on the hand gives clearance to an airplane for departure while the ground controller uses the data plan in form of flight strip to control the flow of airplanes on the airport’s surface. A similar procedure is followed when a plane wants to land. When the plane is about 50 miles from its destined airport, the airport’s terminal radar arrival controller creates a sequence for the airplane along with other airplanes that want to land at the same time.
Once everything is in order, the controller gives an approach clearance to the pilot who is then cleared to make contact with the tower. The clearance to land on the airport is then given by the local controller. The ground controller then takes over and guides the aircraft along the taxiways (Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, 2011).
The work of air traffic controllers is therefore crucial for the safety of airplanes. It requires attention to details (especially for the local and ground controllers who make use of visual observation) and high levels of skills and expertise. Air traffic controllers must be efficient and swift in action because every second counts and can mean the difference between life and death. They need to be intelligent and have a good memory because they receive a lot of information at any given time which they have to quickly understand, interpret and remember.
Strong decision making abilities are also required of air traffic controllers because they are often faced with situations which force them to make quick decisions, for instance, when the weather condition suddenly changes contrary to previous expectations. Air traffic controllers need to have a long concentration span because they have to make decisions in the midst of numerous distractions such as noise and poor visibility.
They need to have active listening skills so that they can hear and understand what is being conveyed to them. In addition to listening skills, they require strong speaking abilities so that they can convey crucial information to pilots and concerned parties quickly, loudly and clearly.
They need critical thinking; problem-solving; and judgment skills to enable them weigh the merits and demerits of various options and make the most appropriate decision. Like any other profession, the profession of air traffic controllers is also ethically bound more so because the lives of passengers and staff in the airplane are at stake. Air traffic controllers must therefore adhere to the ethical obligations set by the ethics committee (Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions, 2011).
In order for someone to qualify to become air traffic controller, he or she must have a college degree in air traffic control or aviation-related course. There are numerous colleges which offer such degrees and they differ from country to country and state to state. Besides the academic qualifications, air traffic controllers who wish to work with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have to take a computer-administered test which normally lasts 8 hours. Before being employed, candidates should also pass a drug-screening test.
The site http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos108.htm (by Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, 2011)) is a good site with invaluable information about all aspects of air traffic controllers. It has information not only about the nature of the work done by air traffic controllers, qualifications and attributes but also information on the job outlook, projections and remuneration.
The site also provides information about occupations that are related to air traffic control as well as sources of additional information. The site http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/53-2021.00 (by O*NET Online, 2010) also offers adequate information about air traffic controllers. The good thing about this site is that the information is organized in a simplistic manner that makes it easy for its readers to read.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. (2011). Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition, Air Traffic Controllers. Retrieved March 18, 2011, from http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos108.htm.
Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions (2011). Air Traffic Control Association. Retrieved March 18, 2011, from http://ethics.iit.edu/indexOfCodes2.php?key=26_8_1149.
O*NET Online. (2010). Summary report for: 53-2021.00_Air Traffic Controllers. Retrieved March 18, 2011, from http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/53-2021.00.