Air traffic control is often something we take for granted. Indeed many people probably don’t realize how much of an influence air traffic controllers have over each and every flight they take. The truth of the matter is, they have a huge amount of influence and control and pilots would not be able to navigate the airways without the help of ATC.
Below you’ll find a number of interesting details about ATC and the people who work in the industry:
Air traffic controllers must have a background in Maths and Geography
One of the lesser known facts that the public don’t know about those working in ATC is that a maths background is an absolute must have. This background must include geometry and calculus, a fact which is sure to put many people off the job! Perhaps not so surprisingly, air traffic controllers have to have knowledge of and understand geography and weather conditions in great detail, which obviously helps help guide and instruct pilots through adverse weather conditions.
Air traffic controllers’ desired skills and capabilities
All air traffic controllers have to be able to display strong communication skills, which are obviously essential for communicating with pilots of all nationalities. They also have to be able to make good decisions quickly, autonomously and sometimes under great pressure. The nature of the job also demands the ability to decipher and understand a range of symbols, as well as have the talent for abstract reasoning.
Air traffic controllers must, of course, also be adept at the visualization of objects within a three-dimensional space. On top of all this, engineering, understanding of computers, aeronautics, and aviation regulations is also required.
What does the job actually involve?
Air traffic control uses radar, high-tech computers and optical scanning devices. The air traffic controllers use this equipment to take certain measurements, such as the altitude and speed of the aircrafts, as well as the direction the aircraft is heading in. Of course, one of the most important aspects of the job is to measure the distances between the aircrafts in order to ensure collisions are avoided.
Air traffic controllers are often under a lot of pressure because they have to keep track of multiple aircrafts all at one time. This in itself wouldn’t be so bad, however, when you consider how quickly things can change, i.e. weather conditions, aircraft malfunctions, passenger troubles, sick pilots, you can appreciate just how pressurised the ATC environment can be.
How does ATC get around language and time barriers?
Every single air traffic control tower operates in English, with each air traffic controller having to be fluent in the English language (as are all pilots). All those working in ATC are required to maintain an extremely proficient level of English; otherwise they can lose their job. ATC also uses Greenwich Mean Time and measures meridians and longitudes in relation to the Prime Meridian. This means there is a single language and understanding, no matter where you are in the world, which helps limit mistakes and mistranslations.
Air traffic controllers have a huge amount of responsibility when they are at work. They often have to make important, sometimes life or death, decisions in extremely small timespans and as such, a career in ATC is often considered to be one of the most psychologically challenging and demanding careers in the world.
James writes for Host Systems. When not writing about host mobile air traffic control rooms, he can often be found digging up little known facts on a variety of subjects.