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What's it like being an air traffic controller?

How many hours do you work at a time? Do you get to take breaks? Are you in a dark room staring at a screen like the show in the movies? #air-traffic-control

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Daniela’s Answer

Hi Demarie,

Air traffic control is a career like no other. Once you’ve completed your training, you’ll be part of a community of highly-trained professionals, who are essential to the smooth and safe running of the aviation industry. 24 hours a day, they help to keep some of the busiest airspace in the world moving. The work is challenging and demanding, but it’s immensely rewarding too.

People come to this career from all kinds of backgrounds. So while you may have knowledge or experience of aviation, it’s by no means essential. It’s the kind of job in which your attitude and aptitude is far more important than your specific background.

Air Traffic Controllers (ATCOs) are also essential to the efficiency of airports and the airline industry. With the ever-increasing volume of traffic, managing flights is a complex and sometimes pressurised job.

As an ATCO, you’ll be using radar and other technology to track planes ‘en route’ between airports and keep in touch with pilots. Alternatively, you’ll be liaising with the planes on approach.

If you’re in charge of the airspace between airports, you’ll be called an Area or Terminal Controller. And if you’re helping pilots land, the role is described as an Approach or Aerodrome Controller.

They issue instructions, advice and information to pilots by radio to keep air traffic flying safely, efficiently and quickly. Broadly, they tell aircraft to go up, go down, turn right, turn left speed up and slow down.

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