Volume 31
July 28, 2014

A Weekly Aviation Career
Newsletter from Avjobs, Inc.

A Weekly Aviation Career Newsletter from Avjobs, Inc.
 
Aviation Career Topics
Announcing New Services
Newsletters from Avjobs
E-News from Avjobs
Recent Job Announcements
Get the Toolbar
Job of the Week
Register for Delivery
Suggest Content
Link Partners
Newsletter Archives
About Archived Content
WHS Aircraft Training Center
Encourage a New Generation
Aviation Salaries Wages Pay
Young Adults in Aviation
Young Adults in Aviation Part 2
Working On The Goodyear Blimp
Women in Aviation Conference
What Aviation Employers Expect
Virtual Flying
Virgin America Takes Flight
Video Job Profiles
Using the Avjobs Toolbar
The History Of Flight Attendants
The Gratitude Campaign
Scheduler Dispatcher Conference
Recruiting Minorities to Aviation
Pilot Promotes Aviation Careers
Pilot Completes Trip
Pay Hikes and Bonuses
Northwest Airlines Hiring
No Ordinary Flight Instructor
NBAA Scholarship Update
NBAA Scholarship Opportunities
NBAA Scholarship Deadlines
NBAA Celebrates 60 Years
Jumpseat Ride Flying Charters
Joe Jones Aviations True Spirit
Is an FAA Career for You
IATA Reports On Airline Traffic
Hubble Multimedia Package
Honda Aircraft Company
History Of Flight Attendants
Having Fun for a Living
Gordon Page Warbird Recovery
Funding Prevents Furloughs
Flying The Canyon
Flight Simulation
Flight Attendants Contract
FAA To Hire 15000
FAA Bumps Retirement Age
Delta Promises Stability
Corporate Flight Attendant Jobs
Congress Recognizes Irving
Colorado Astronauts
Climb Aviations Career Ladder
Cirrus Design
Changing Careers
Career Profile Airline Pilot
Career Profile Airline CEO
Boeing Enjoys Sales Spike
Barrington Irving on CNN
Aviations Renaissance Man
Aviation Photography
Aviation Pay Philosophies
Aviation Employee Competencies
Aviation Career Salary Ranges
Aviation Career Overviews
Armed Pilots Refresher Training
Ardent Receives Approval
An Aerobatic Superstar
American Warns Unions
Airline Ramp Agents
Airline Overhead Bins
Airline Merger Update
Airline Flight Attendant Careers
Aircraft Sales
Aircraft Maintenance Technicians
Air Traffic Controller Careers
Aerospace Engineering
A Life in Aviation
A Career in Virtual Aviation
Table of Contents
Search
Contact Us


A Weekly Aviation Career Newsletter from Avjobs, Inc.
Aviation Career Profile

Air Traffic Controllers

Three defense companies have qualified to bid on a portion of an FAA contract to upgrade the nation's air traffic control system. Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and ITT may bid on the contract, which is expected to be awarded as soon as July. The FAA hopes the system improves runway operations and increases the number of planes that can fly safely at the same time. However, no one must overlook the most critical component of the air traffic control system. Of course, we're talking about the controllers themselves.

Nearly all air traffic controllers are employed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Others work in contract towers operated by private organizations in cooperation with the FAA. They coordinate the movement of air traffic to make certain that aircraft stay a safe distance apart. Their immediate concern is safety, but controllers also must direct traffic efficiently to minimize delays. Some regulate airport traffic through designated airspaces; others regulate airport arrivals and departures.

Although airport tower controllers or terminal controllers track all aircraft traveling through their airspace, their main responsibility is to organize the flow of aircraft into and out of the airport. Relying on radar and visual observation, also controllers keep pilots informed about changes in weather conditions such as wind shear, a sudden change in the velocity or direction of the wind that can cause the pilot concern or lose control of the aircraft.

The Process of Controlling Aircraft
During arrival or departure, several controllers direct each aircraft around the busiest of airports. As an aircraft approaches, the pilot radios ahead to inform the terminal of the plane's presence. The controller in the radar room, just beneath the control tower, has a copy of the plane's flight plan and already has observed the airplane on radar. If the path is clear, the controller directs the pilot to a runway; if the airport is busy, the plane is fitted into a traffic pattern with other aircraft waiting to land. As the plane nears the runway, the pilot is asked to contact the tower. There, another controller, who also is watching the plane on radar, monitors the aircraft the last few miles or so to the runway, delaying any departures that would interfere with the plane's landing. Once the plane has landed, a ground controller in the tower directs it along the taxiways to its assigned gate or parking area on the ramp. The ground controller usually works entirely by sight, but may use radar if visibility is very poor.

The procedure is reversed for departures. The ground controller directs aircraft to the proper runway. The local controller then informs the pilot about conditions at the airport, such as weather, speed and direction of wind, and visibility and also issues a runway clearance for the pilot to take off. Once in the air, the flight is guided out of the airport's airspace by the departure controller.

After each plane departs, airport tower controllers notify enroot controllers who will next take charge. There are 20 air route traffic control centers located around the country, each employing 300 to 700 controllers, with more than 150 on duty during peak hours at the busiest facilities. Airplanes usually fly along designated routes; each center is assigned a certain airspace containing many of these routes. Enroot controllers work in teams of up to three members, depending on how heavy traffic is; each team is responsible for a section of the center's airspace. A team, for example, might be responsible for all air traffic that are between 30 and 100 miles north of an airport and flying at an altitude between 6,000 and 18,000 feet.

The radar controller, who is the senior team member, observes the traffic in the team's airspace on radar and communicates with the pilots when necessary. Radar controllers warn pilots about nearby planes, bad weather conditions, and other potential hazards. Two planes on a collision course will be directed around each other. If a pilot wants to change altitude in search of better flying conditions, the controller will check to determine that no other aircraft will be along the proposed path. As the flight progresses, the team responsible for the aircraft notifies the next team in charge of the airspace ahead. Through team coordination, the flight arrives safely at its destination.

Both airport tower and enroot controllers usually control several planes at a time; often, they have to make quick decisions about completely different activities. For example, a controller might direct an airplane on its landing approach and at the same time provide pilots entering the airport's airspace with information about conditions at the airport. While instructing these pilots, the controller also might observe other planes in the vicinity, such as those in a holding pattern waiting for permission to land, to ensure that they remain well separated.

Other Air Traffic Control Functions
In addition to airport towers and enroot centers, air traffic controllers also work in flight service stations operated at more than 100 locations. These flight service specialists provide pilots with information on the station's particular area, including terrain, preflight and in-flight weather information, suggested routes, and other information important to the safety of a flight. Flight service specialists help pilots in emergency situations and initiate and coordinate searches for missing or overdue aircraft. However, they are not involved in actively managing air traffic.

Some air traffic controllers work at the FAA's Air Traffic Control Systems Command Center in Herndon, VA, where they oversee the entire system. They look for situations that will create bottlenecks or other problems in the system, then respond with a management plan for traffic into and out of the troubled sector. The objective is to keep traffic levels in the trouble spots manageable for the controllers working at enroot centers.

Working Conditions
Controllers work a basic 40-hour week; however, they may work additional hours, for which they receive overtime, or premium, pay or equal time off. Because most busy control towers and centers operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, controllers often rotate night and weekend shifts.

During busy times, controllers must work rapidly and efficiently. Total concentration is required to keep track of several planes at the same time and to make certain that all pilots receive correct instructions. The mental stress of being responsible for the safety of several aircraft and their passengers can be exhausting.

We invite you to join us as we visit with the controllers at the Miami International Airport.
We hope you enjoy this streaming video report produced by Avjobs.

Training, Other Qualifications
and Advancement

To become an air traffic controller, a person must enroll in an FAA-approved education program and pass a pre-employment test that measures his or her ability to learn the controller's duties. Exceptions are air traffic controllers with prior experience and military veterans. The pre-employment test is currently offered only to students in the FAA Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative Program and a couple of other recognized institutions. The test is administered by computer and takes about 8 hours to complete. To take the test, an applicant must apply under an open advertisement for air traffic control positions and be chosen to take the examination. When there are many more applicants than available positions, applicants are selected to take the test through random selection. In addition to the pre-employment test, applicants must have 3 years of full-time work experience, have completed a full 4 years of college, or a combination of both. In combining education and experience, 1 year of undergraduate study 30 semester or 45 quarter hours Is equivalent to 9 months of work experience. Certain kinds of aviation experience also may be substituted for these requirements.

Upon successful completion of an FAA-approved program, individuals who receive school recommendation, meet the basic qualification requirements (including being less than 31 years of age) in accordance with Federal law, and achieve a qualifying score on the FAA-authorized pre-employment test become eligible for employment as an air traffic controller. Candidates also must pass a medical exam, undergo drug screening, and obtain a security clearance before they can be hired.

Upon selection, employees attend the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City, OK, for 12 weeks of training, during which they learn the fundamentals of the airway system, FAA regulations, controller equipment, and aircraft performance characteristics, as well as more specialized tasks.

After graduation, candidates assigned to an air traffic control facility are classified as 'developmental controllers' until they complete all requirements to be certified for all of the air traffic control positions within a defined area of a given facility. Generally, it takes new controllers with only initial controller training between 2 and 4 years, depending on the facility and the availability of facility staff or contractors to provide on-the-job training, to complete all the certification requirements to become certified professional controllers. Individuals who have had prior controller experience normally take less time to become fully certified. Controllers who fail to complete either the academy or the on-the-job portion of the training usually is dismissed. Controllers must pass a physical examination each year and a job performance examination twice each year. Failure to become certified in any position at a facility within a specified time also may result in dismissal. Controllers also are subject to drug screening as a condition of continuing employment.

Air traffic controllers must be articulate to give pilots directions quickly and clearly. Intelligence and a good memory also are important because controllers constantly receive information that they must immediately grasp, interpret, and remember. Decisiveness also is required because controllers often have to make quick decisions. The ability to concentrate is crucial because controllers must make these decisions in the midst of noise and other distractions.

At airports, new controllers begin by supplying pilots with basic flight data and airport information. They then advance to the position of ground controller, then local controller, departure controller, and, finally, arrival controller. At an air route traffic control center, new controllers first deliver printed flight plans to teams, gradually advancing to radar associate controller and then radar controller.

Controllers can transfer to jobs at different locations or advance to supervisory positions, including management or staff jobs, such as air traffic control data systems computer specialist, in air traffic control and top administrative jobs in the FAA. However, there are only limited opportunities for a controller to switch from a position in an enroot center to a tower.

Job Outlook
Employment of air traffic controllers is expected to grow about as fast as average for all occupations through the year 2014. Increasing air traffic will require more controllers to handle the additional work. Employment growth, however, is not expected to keep pace with growth in the number of aircraft flying. New computerized systems will assist the controller by automatically making many of the routine decisions. This will allow controllers to handle more traffic, thus increasing their productivity. In addition, Federal budget constraints may limit hiring of air traffic controllers.

More job openings are expected as the result of replacement needs from workers leaving the occupation. The majority of toady's air traffic controllers will be eligible to retire over the next decade, although not all are expected to do so. Nevertheless, replacement needs will result in job opportunities each year for those graduating from the FAA training programs. Despite the increasing number of jobs coming open, competition to get into the FAA training programs is expected to remain keen, as there generally are many more applicants to get into the schools than there are openings, but those who graduate have good prospects of getting a job as a controller.

Air traffic controllers who continue to meet the proficiency and medical requirements enjoy more job security than do most workers. The demand for air travel and the workloads of air traffic controllers decline during recessions, but controllers seldom are laid off.

Earnings
The Air Traffic Control pay system classifies each air traffic facility into one of eight levels with corresponding pay bands. Under this pay system, controllers salaries are determined by the rating of the facility. The higher the rating, the higher the controller's salary and the greater the demand on the controller's judgment, skill, and decision making ability. We suggest you visit Avjobs Aviation Career Salary Ranges page, which lists typical salaries by job category.

Depending on length of service, air traffic controllers receive 13 to 26 days of paid vacation and 13 days of paid sick leave each year, in addition to life insurance and health benefits. Controllers also can retire at an earlier age and with fewer years of service than other Federal employees. Air traffic controllers are eligible to retire at age 50 with 20 years of service as an active air traffic controller or after 25 years of active service at any age. There is a mandatory retirement age of 56 for controllers who manage air traffic. However, federal law provides for exemptions to the mandatory age of 56, up to age 61, for controllers having exceptional skills and experience.

See What It's All About
There is much more to being an air traffic controller. You can read all about this and other aviation careers at Avjobs Federal Government Aviation Career Overviews site. Avjobs members can also access the Quick Start Job Search database for a jump on who's hiring for all jobs in the aviation industry.

 

Stay connected to us - and get so much more - with the Avjobs - Aviation Industry Employment Toolbar!
Stay connected to us - and get so much more - with the Avjobs - Aviation Industry Employment Community Toolbar!

Home | Search Jobs | Post Jobs | Aviation Schools | Aviation Salary | Job of the Week
Site Map | Free Toolbar | Aviation Careers | Students | Employer Services |
 Copyright 2006-2014 Avjobs, Inc.
All rights reserved.

  Push 2 Check