Air Traffic Controller Facts: How To Control Traffic MidAir!

Shirin Biswas
Feb 29, 2024 By Shirin Biswas
Originally Published on Dec 16, 2021
Fact-checked by Sudeshna Nag
aeroplane flying in the sky
Age: 3-18
Read time: 6.2 Min

To be responsible for a single aircraft is intimidating enough, but what about when you are to regulate hundreds?

Air traffic controllers all around the world spend hours in their tower rooms, looking at their radar screens in order to make sure that you have a safe flight. Given that they have such stressful jobs, air traffic controllers are hardly appreciated enough for their work.

Whether it be an airport air traffic controller or military air traffic controller, the job remains the same. These people safeguard the lives of thousands of people by making sure that all aircraft maintain a minimum distance between them and also do not have conflicting trajectories.

There are many parameters set by the International Civil Aviation Organization that aspiring air traffic controllers need to meet. Landing a job in this sector is considered tough since the vacancies typically only show up once a year. The candidates are to be 30 years old and not younger; once selected, they are required to retire at the age of 56. Air traffic controllers go through serious testing of their skills and senses. Only the brightest of candidates from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Academy make it as air traffic controllers. Keep reading to learn more!

If you enjoy reading this article, why not also check out facts about traffic lights and airplanes here at Kidadl?

Air Traffic Controller Facts For Kids

Air Traffic Control may not be something that you hear of often, but it is definitely one of the most important roles in terms of air travel. With the advent and rapid growth of the aviation industry, air traffic has been on a significant rise. Can you imagine if there was no air traffic control and if pilots had no idea of the other aircraft that were on their routes?

There would be chaos and mayhem since aircraft would constantly be running into each other and causing widespread destruction. Air traffic control specialists have the immense responsibility of making sure that the airspace under their control is clear of any mishaps. There is a minimum distance that must be maintained between aircraft in order to make sure that planes do not run into each other. Within controlled airspace, the air traffic control facility of the area informs airline pilots about the weather and the traffic in their trajectory.

The air traffic control tower is one of the tallest buildings that we see at airports. The air controllers in these towers are responsible for watching the airspace of the airport as well as the area surrounding the airport. The airport control tower workers not only watch the arrival or departure of airplanes through their windows but also keep an eye on their secondary radars.

They constantly keep in touch with arriving or departing pilots when in their airspace and guide them. Air traffic controllers are also required to be in touch with ground control so as to make sure that the appropriate runway is assigned to a specific aircraft.

If you have ever wondered why pilots sometimes start hovering or flying around an airport, the possible reason is that an air traffic controller has asked them to wait for the runway to clear.

Air traffic control towers do have windows all around them, but when the weather conditions are difficult, the controllers often have reduced vision. It is because of this that airline flights get delayed by bad weather. Tower controllers, therefore, spend a lot of time watching out of their windows and trying to see any approaching or departing aircraft.

Control tower with weather radar on airport, on blue sky background

The First Air Traffic Controller

The first airport air traffic control tower opened in the year 1930 in Cleveland, USA. The first air traffic controller was Archie William League. He was a skilled pilot and licensed to repair engines and aircraft.

There is no determinable life expectancy of air traffic controllers. However, it is said that people who find the job too stressful either quit or have a reduced life expectancy. They can, however, develop health problems like stress-induced gastrointestinal issues, cardiac arrests, and atrial fibrillation.

Life Of An Air Traffic Controller

Air traffic controllers often lead stressful lives. Whether they work at an airport traffic control tower or individual traffic control centers located elsewhere, they are responsible for the lives of thousands of passengers. The only reason why controlled airspace feels safe is that traffic controllers are the ones to stare out of their windows or at their screens ceaselessly.

Air control is considered to be one of the most stressful jobs since managing traffic levels in the airspace which comes under their control puts the lives of thousands of people in their hands. Air traffic controllers often complain of changing work timings.

These controllers are often fatigued and overworked, which has led to many mishaps over the years. It was after some such events that timings were established between the shifts that controllers had to work for. Air traffic controllers also get ample breaks to control fatigue and increase the efficiency of the air traffic control tower or traffic control centers.

Labor statistics show that even though air traffic controllers often have generous salaries, they often suffer from many ailments. Such controllers often suffer from stress-related gastroenterological problems as well as heart diseases. In certain interviews, it was revealed that not only do air traffic controllers suffer from serious ailments such as cancer and IBS, but they are also at risk of developing stress-related cardiovascular issues.

The life of air traffic controllers is said to consist of periods of boredom and thrill. While there are some periods of the day and night when air traffic controllers are very busy, there are others when they have to stare at their screens in sheer boredom. One of the most exciting parts of the jobs of air traffic controllers is that they often get the chance to view Unidentified Flying Objects or UFOs!

Responsibilities Of An Air Traffic Controller

Air traffic controllers have many responsibilities depending on where they work. People working at an airport traffic control tower are responsible for looking after important airport procedures such as regulating arriving and departing aircraft. They typically keep in touch with pilots as well as the ground force in order to ensure that everyone is aware of the empty and available runways.

The airport control tower is equipped with radar equipment, but the personnel mostly rely on their hawk-like eyes to look out for any aircraft in the vicinity. Their job is basically to attend to the aircraft in and around the airport surfaces.

En-route controllers are responsible for maintaining air route traffic control. These controllers make sure that pilots can guide their aircraft to a destination airport without any trouble. They also guide pilots regarding any unforeseen bad weather conditions and give them instructions or advice regarding the best plan of action.

However, the main authority over the aircraft and its route remains with the pilot. Some air traffic controllers work in windowless rooms, unlike airport traffic controllers, and keep a close watch on their radar screens throughout the day.

There are many air control centers to regulate traffic at places that do not fall under the jurisdiction of an airport.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our air traffic controller facts, then why not take a look at our articles about the biggest paper airplane or airplanes for kids.

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Written by Shirin Biswas

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Language and Literature

Shirin Biswas picture

Shirin BiswasBachelor of Arts specializing in English Language and Literature

With a degree in English from Amity University, Noida, Shirin has won awards for oratory, acting, and creative writing. She has a wealth of experience as an English teacher, editor, and writer, having previously worked at Quizzy and Big Books Publishing. Her expertise lies in editing study guides for children and creating engaging content.

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