The air traffic control specialists at FAA airport traffic control towers (terminals) direct air traffic so it flows smoothly and efficiently. The controllers give pilots taxiing and takeoff instructions, air traffic clearances, and advice based on their own observations and information received from the National Weather Service, air route traffic control en route centers, flight service stations, aircraft pilots, and other sources. They provide separation between landing and departing aircraft, transfer control of aircraft on instrument flights to the en route controllers when the aircraft leave their airspace, and receive control of aircraft on instrument flights coming into their airspace from controllers at adjacent facilities. They must be able to recall quickly registration numbers of aircraft under their control, the aircraft types and speeds, positions in the air, and also the location of navigational aids in the area.
In 328 operating towers, air traffic controllers control flights within the three-to-thirty-mile radius each serves under visual flight rules (VFR) or instrument flight rules (IFR). Tower controllers may work either in the glass-walled room at the top of the tower, or in the radar room below it, but their jobs have the same aim . . . the safe separation and movement of departing, landing, and maneuvering aircraft. Tower assignments vary widely, as one could imagine when contrasting the activity at a small airport with that found at a major metropolitan complex such as Dallas-Fort Worth or Chicago OHare. Over 9,000 controllers work in towers, with the number of controllers in a facility varying from 10 to 150.
The controllers normally work a forty-hour week in FAA control towers at airports using radio, radar, electronic computers, telephone, traffic control light, and other devices for communication. Additional payment (called premium pay) is made for shift work involving duty between 6 o'clock p.m. and 6 o'clock a.m. and for work during Sundays and holidays. Merit promotions are awarded under provisions of a Civil Service approved merit promotion plan.
Shift work is necessary. Each controller is responsible, at separate times, for: giving taxiing instructions to aircraft on the ground, takeoff instructions and air traffic clearances, and directing landings of incoming planes. These individual duties are rotated among the staff about every two hours at busy locations. At busy times, controllers must work rapidly, and mental demands increase as traffic mounts, especially when poor flying conditions occur and traffic stacks up. Brief rest periods provide some relief, but are not always possible. Radar controllers usually work in semi-darkness.
Typical Requirements and/or Experience
General Experience: Progressively responsible experience in administrative, technical or other work which demonstrates potential for learning and performing air traffic control work. A four year college degree can be substituted for the general experience requirement.
Specialized Experience: Experience in a military or civilian air traffic facility which demonstrated possession of the knowledge's, skills and abilities required to perform the level of work of the specialization for which application is made. Persons with a four year college degree and a test score of 75.1 or higher on the Air Traffic Controller Aptitude Test will be admitted to controller training at the FAA Academy at Oklahoma City, OK.
Educational and Other Substitutions for Experience: GS-7: Successful completion of four year college degree may be substituted in full for the experience required at GS-7. GS-7: Applicants who have passed the written test qualify for the experience requirements for grade GS-7 if they: Hold or have held an appropriate facility rating and have actively controlled air traffic in civilian or military air traffic control terminals or centers; Hold or have held an FAA certificate as a dispatcher for an air carrier; Hold or have held an instrument pilot certificate; Hold or have held an FAA certificate as a navigator or have been fully qualified as a Navigator/Bombardier in the Armed Forces; Have 350 hours of flight time as a co-pilot or higher and hold or have held a private pilot certificate or equivalent Armed Forces rating; Have served as a rated Aerospace Defense Command Intercept Director; Meet the requirements for GS-5 and in addition pass the written test with a higher score.
Certificate and Rating Requirements: Air traffic control specialists in all specialization's are required to possess or obtain a valid Air Traffic Control Specialist Certificate and/or Control Tower Operator Certificate, if appropriate. These certificates require demonstrating knowledge of basic meteorology, basic air navigation, standard air traffic control and communications procedures, the types and uses of aid to air navigation, and regulations governing air traffic. In addition, each air traffic control specialist must possess or obtain a rating for the facility to which assigned. This facility rating requires demonstration of a knowledge of the kind and location of radio aids to air navigation, the terrain, the landmarks, the communications systems and circuits, and the procedures peculiar to the area covered by the facility. All required certificates and ratings must be obtained, if not already held, within uniformly applicable time limits established by agency management.
Physical Requirements: Candidates must be able to pass a physical examination (including normal color vision). Air traffic control specialists are required to requalify in a physical examination given annually.
Written Test and Interview: Applicants must also pass a comprehensive written test and complete a personal interview during which alertness, decisiveness, diction, poise and conciseness of speech are evaluated. Both men and women are employed as air traffic controllers. Few occupations make more rigid physical and mental demands upon employees than that of air traffic controllers. Because studies show that the unique skills necessary for success as a controller diminish with age, a maximum age of 30 has been established, without exception, for entry into an FAA tower or center controller position.
A four year college degree.
The Federal Aviation Administration hires candidates who have completed schooling at one of the following 14 locations across the United States: College of Aeronautic, Flushing NY Community College of Beaver County, Beaver Falls, PA Daniel Webster College, Nashua, NH Dowling College, Oakdale, NY Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona, FL Hampton University, Hampton, VA Inter American University of Puerto Rico, San Juan, Puerto Rico Miami-Dade Community College, Miami, FL Middle Tennessee State University, TN Mt. San Antonio College, Walnut, CA Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN University of Alaska Anchorage, Anchorage, AK. University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, ND Minneapolis Community & Technical, Eden Prairie, MN
Married and unmarried men and women, with or without children are eligible. Persons who are widowed or divorced, also are eligible.
It is the policy of most aviation companies to provide equal employment opportunity to all individuals regardless of their race, creed, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, disability, military and veteran status, sexual orientation, marital status, or any other characteristic protected by state or federal law. Most aviation companies are strongly committed to this policy, and believe in the concept and spirit of the United States law.
Most aviation companies are committed to assuring that:
All recruiting, hiring, training, promotion, compensation, and other employment related programs are provided fairly to all persons on an equal opportunity basis without regard to race, creed, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, disability, military and veteran status, sexual orientation, marital status or any other characteristic protected by law;
Employment decisions are based on the principles of equal opportunity and affirmative action;
All personnel actions such as compensation, benefits, transfers, training, and participation in social and recreational programs are administered without regard to race, creed, color, sex, age, national origin, disability, military and veteran status, sexual orientation, marital status or any other characteristic protected by law, and;
Employees and applicants will not be subjected to harassment, intimidation, threats, coercion or discrimination because they have exercised any right protected by law.
Most aviation companies believe in and practice equal opportunity and affirmative action. All employees are responsible for supporting the concept of equal opportunity and affirmative action and assisting the company in meeting its objectives.
Most aviation companies maintain Affirmative Action Plans for minorities, women, disabled persons and veterans.
EEOC has jurisdiction of the prohibitions against employment discrimination codified in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, Sections 501 and 505 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Titles I and V of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Civil Rights Act of 1991. These laws prohibit discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age and disability.
The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) and the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) enforce the prohibitions against federal employment discrimination codified in the CSRA. The OSC will defer those bases of discrimination under EEOC's jurisdiction to the respective federal agency and its EEO process. The CSRA also prohibits employment discrimination in the federal government based on marital status, political affiliation and conduct which does not adversely affect the performance of the employee, none of which are within EEOC's jurisdiction. Moreover, the law defines ten other prohibited personnel practices in the federal government, all of which fall under the jurisdiction of the OSC and the MSPB. See Prohibited Personnel Practices at http://www.osc.gov/ppp.htm.
Additional information may also be found on the the EEOC web site located at http://www.eeoc.gov/
Wages and Benefits
Most Federal Civil Service employees in the aviation field are covered by the General Schedule and their salaries vary according to their grade level (GS-1 through GS-18). Within each of the grades provided in the General Schedule, provision is made for periodic pay increases based on an acceptable level of performance. With an acceptable level of competence, the waiting period of advancement to steps two, three and four is one year, steps five, six and seven is two years, steps eight, nine and ten is three years. The starting grade is normally GS-7. Trainees are paid while learning their jobs. The highest grade for a non supervisory professional air traffic control specialist in the tower is GS-14.
Salaries and benefits can vary. For an updated look at salaries in the aviation industry, view the Avjobs.com Salary Report.
Where the jobs are and who hires
FAA employs over 20,000 controllers at Air Route Traffic Control Centers and airport control towers and flight service stations located throughout the nation. Some jobs are located outside the contiguous United States in Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and American Samoa. Employees are able to relocate to meet staffing requirements.
Opportunities for Advancement
Promotion from trainee to a higher grade professional controller depends upon the employee's performance and satisfactory progression in his or her training program. Trainees who do not successfully complete their training courses are separated or reassigned from their controller positions. Increases in grade (with accompanying increases in salary) for successful trainees are fairly rapid, but grades above GS-14 are limited to managerial positions of team supervisor, assistant chief, staff officer and chief. During the first year, the trainee is on probation and then she or he may advance from positions backing up professional controllers to primary positions of responsibility. It takes a controller from three to six years of experience to reach the full performance level. Some professional controllers are selected for research activities with FAA's National Aviation Facilities Experimental Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Some are also selected to serve as instructors at the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Outlook for the Future
Although aviation is growing dramatically the number of new controllers hired each year is approximately 2,000. This is due to the fact that advances in automation have allowed fewer controllers do more work. There is however an increased emphasis on providing the maximum amount of safety which results in continued stringent requirements for controllers.
Trainees receive 15 weeks of instruction at the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. After completion of the training period, they are assigned to developmental positions for on-the-job training under close supervision until successful completion of training.
However, those who fail to complete training are separated or reassigned from their controller positions. The FAA conducts upgrading training programs for controllers continuously. Training in air traffic control continues long after the controller reaches the full performance level.
To locate educational facilities with programs related to this position, search Avjobs Aviation School Directory. The Avjobs Aviation School Directory makes researching and finding an aviation college, university, flight school or professional training facility simple.
An interesting alternative to working in the private sector is a career in government. Many highly responsible aviation positions are to be found in the FAA and other Federal agencies. In addition, state and local government agencies are involved in aviation.
Among its many functions in aviation, the FAA is responsible for controlling the movement of aircraft throughout the nation, establishing and maintaining electronic navigation aids, licensing pilots and aircraft mechanics, and certifying the airworthiness of aircraft.
A major source of aviation careers lies in jobs with federal, state and local government agencies.
Civil aviation careers in the Federal Government for men and women are found within the Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration; the Civil Aeronautics Board; and a growing number of other Federal departments and agencies. All of these aviation jobs come under the Federal Civil Service, and wage scales are determined by Congress, which, from time to time, adjusts the pay levels to bring them in line with comparable jobs in private business and industry. Salaries for Federal Civil Service employees are established into two chief categories: General Schedule (for those employees who perform administrative, managerial, technical, clerical and professional jobs and who are paid on an annual basis) and the Federal Wage System (for those employees who perform jobs associated with the trades and crafts and who are paid wages on an hourly basis).
Most federal employees under Civil Service participate in a liberal retirement plan. Employees earn from 13 to 26 days of paid annual vacation, depending upon the length of service, and 13 days of paid sick leave each year. Health insurance, low-cost group life insurance, credit union service, and compensation and medical care for injury on the job are other benefits offered.
The largest number of aviation jobs found within the Federal Government (outside the Department of Defense) is with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the Department of Transportation. The FAA, with a total of approximately 47,000 employees, is charged with the administration and enforcement of all federal air regulations to insure the safety of air transportation. The FAA also promotes, guides and assists the development of a national system of civil airports. The FAA provides pilots with flight information and air traffic control services from flight planning to landing.
Terminal area controllers separate landing and departing aircraft. They transfer control of aircraft on instrument flights to the ARTCC controller when the aircraft leaves their airspace, and they receive control of aircraft on instrument flights coming into their airspace from controllers at adjacent facilities. They must be able to quickly recall registration numbers of aircraft under their control, the aircraft types and speeds, positions in the air, and also the location of navigational aids or landmarks in the area.
The ARTCC controllers give aircraft instructions, air traffic clearances, and advice regarding flight conditions during the enroute portion of flights. They provide separation between aircraft flying along the Federal airways or operating into or out of airports not served by a terminal facility.
Center controllers use radar or manual procedures to keep track of the progress of all instrument flights within the center's airspace. The controllers transfer control of aircraft to the controllers in the adjacent center or to the approach control or terminal when the aircraft enters that facility's airspace. Center controllers are required to use computer equipment, radio, radar, telephones, and other electronic communication devices. Due to the radar equipment, they work in semi-darkness, and unlike the controllers in airport traffic control towers, they never see the aircraft they control except as "targets" on the radar scope.
Air traffic control specialists also work in flight service stations. They provide pre-flight, in-flight, and emergency assistance to all pilots on request. They communicate information about actual and forecast weather conditions for a specific flight, relay air traffic control instructions, assist pilots in emergencies, provide airport advisory service, and initiate and participate in searches for missing or overdue aircraft.