Air Traffic Controller - Your Eyes In The Sky.
Air traffic service (ATS) is a service provided by an air traffic controller who directs aircraft in the air and on the ground. The primary purpose of air traffic controllers (ATC) is to provide safe, orderly and expeditious control of aircraft in order to separate aircraft and prevent mid air/ground collisions.
Air traffic control was first introduced at London's Croydon Airport in 1921.
Archie League, who controlled aircraft using colored flags at what is today Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, is often considered the first air traffic controller. Today we use a little more advanced technology than flags........ lighted flags!
Preventing collisions is referred to as separation. Air traffic control personnel do this by use of lateral, vertical and longitudinal separation minima.
Today, many aircraft have traffic collision avoidance systems (TCAS) on board to act as a backup to ATC. Each aircraft must have a Mode S transponder in order for TCAS to be effective. The planes then "talk" to each other to prevent collisions.
Watching airplanes to ensure their safety is a unique job to say the least. Every day I go to work is a new adveture. No two days are ever the same.
As always with this site I have decided to provide links for those of you who are interested in becoming an air traffic controller. Please click on your following country below to see what is required to become a controller in that country.
You can also apply for a position as a controller (should you meet the requirements) through a link at the bottom of each countries page. Good Luck!
As well, you can find a link to Live ATC audio feeds from around the world. Click on one of the links to listen to Live ATC transmissions. There is also a link, on that page, that will take you to another website that offers a whole lot more live air traffic control audio feeds. Check them out. Enjoy!
The first attempts to provide a function of air traffic control were based on simple "rules of the road" (European sponsored International Convention for Air Navigation, 1919). The first air traffic rules were established in the United States by the passage of the Air Commerce Act in 1926.
Around 1930, radio equipped control towers were established by some local authorities, and in 1933 instrument flying began.
In 1935, in the US, airlines using the Chicago, Cleveland, and Newark airports agreed to coordinate the handling of airline traffic between those cities. In December, the first Airway Traffic Control Center opened at Newark, New Jersey. The first-generation Air Traffic Control (ATC) System was born. Additional centers were added in 1936 in Chicago and Cleveland.
The primary means of controlling is by visual observation from the control tower. The tower is a tall, windowed structure located on the airport grounds. Aerodrome, or Tower, controllers are responsible for the separation and efficient movement of aircraft and vehicles operating on the taxiways and runways of the airport itself, and aircraft in the air near the airport, generally 2 to 5 nautical miles (3.7 to 9.2 km) depending on the airport procedures. The air traffic control in the tower clears aircraft for take off or landing and ensures the runway is clear for these aircraft. Tower controllers typically only control airborne traffic when it is VMC weather conditions, or in other words when the controllers can see the aircraft in the air and their vision is not obstructed by clouds.
Radar displays are also available to controllers at some airports. Controllers may use a radar system called Secondary Surveillance Radar (SSR) for airborne traffic approaching and departing. These displays include a map of the area, the position of various aircraft, and data tags that include aircraft identification, speed, heading, and other information described in local procedures. This is usually used by IFR controllers. IFR controllers control aircraft that can't be seen due to clouds. The radar provides the controller with "eyes in the sky" so that safe control of aircraft can be maintained.
Ground Control is responsible for the airport "maneuvering" areas, or areas not released to the airlines or other users. This generally includes all taxiways, inactive runways, holding areas, and some transitional aprons or intersections where aircraft arrive having vacated the runway and departure gates. Any aircraft, vehicle, or person walking or working in these areas is required to have clearance from the ground controller. This is normally done via radio.
Approach and Terminal Control
Many airports have a radar control facility that is associated with the airport. In most countries, this is referred to as Approach or Terminal Control. While every airport varies, terminal controllers usually handle traffic in a 30 to 50 nautical mile (56 to 93 km) radius from the airport. Where there are many busy airports in close proximity, one single terminal control may service all the airports. The actual airspace boundaries and altitudes assigned to a terminal control are based on factors such as traffic flows, neighboring airports and terrain, and vary widely from airport to airport.
Terminal controllers are responsible for providing all ATC services within their airspace. Traffic flow is broadly divided into departures, arrivals, overflights, and clearance delivery. As aircraft move in and out of the terminal airspace, they are handed off to the next appropriate control facility. Terminal control is responsible for ensuring that aircraft are at an appropriate altitude when they are handed off, and that aircraft arrive at a suitable rate for landing.
Since centers control a large airspace area, they will typically use long range radar that has the capability, at higher altitudes, to see aircraft within 200 nautical miles (370 km) of the radar antenna.
Centers also exercise control over traffic travelling over the world's ocean areas. Gander Oceanic, in Canada, serves all aircraft heading from North America to Europe. The aircraft are placed on designated routes at different altitudes to avoid collisions. Technology is improving rapidly, however we still haven't developed a radar system that can cover all of the North Atlantic. There is a "black hole" between Greenland and Iceland where radar coverage doesn't exist. We are really close to fixing this.
Being an air traffic controller has it's great advantages, we get to tell pilots where to go! As a pilot and an air traffic controller I can appreciate both sides of the coin.
I have come to realise that there is more to being an air traffic controller than my pilot personna led me to believe. I now know why I was given those clearances when I thought the controller was trying to screw me over.
If being an air traffic controller interests you then please visit the following pages to find out how to become an air traffic controller in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia.
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Air Traffic Control In Canada
Air Traffic Controller In Australia
Air Traffic Control In The United Kingdom
Air Traffic Control In The United States