The Beginner’s Guide to Air Traffic Control


The Beginner’s Guide to Air Traffic Control: A resource for those who are interested in learning about how air traffic control operates.

This guide is an introduction to air traffic control. It is NOT a guide for how to become an air traffic controller. If you want to become an air traffic controller, please see the FAA’s website.

There are many types of controllers and facilities at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This guide will focus on what people think of when they hear “air traffic controller” – primarily the facility that controls aircraft flying in high-density airspace – Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON), also known as an Approach Control, and the Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC), also known as a Center. A TRACON covers terminal airspace (usually within 50 miles of large airports) and a Center covers enroute airspace between TRACONs. This guide will not cover controllers working at airports, but will focus on controllers working in radar rooms where they manage flows of hundreds of airplanes per day.

Air Traffic Control is a highly technical profession. It has a language, rules and procedures all its own. It also has a unique history and culture that contribute to the fascination with the field.

This guide is intended to be an introduction to Air Traffic Control, not a comprehensive resource. The intention is to help someone who knows nothing about the subject understand how air traffic control works, what air traffic controllers do, and what they talk about when they aren’t controlling airplanes.

The Beginner’s Guide To Air Traffic Control is divided into three sections. The first section gives an overview of the principles of Air Traffic Control. The second section looks at the history of Air Traffic Control in the United States and its relationship with the airline industry. The final section provides some insight into life as an air traffic controller as well as some resources for those who want to learn more about ATC.

The idea of air traffic control may seem complicated, but it is based on some fairly simple ground rules. In the United States, all aircraft are broken down into different categories, each with specific privileges and responsibilities. The two basic categories are large and small aircraft. Large aircraft include passenger jets and cargo planes that weigh more than 12,500 lbs. Small aircraft include general aviation planes (such as a Cessna 172), private jets, and helicopters. All other aircraft are either military or government.

Air Traffic Control (ATC) is an airport-based service provided by ground-based controllers who direct aircraft on the ground and through controlled airspace, as well as provide advisory services to aircraft in non-controlled airspace. ATC services are available at most airports with manned ATC facilities and can be requested by pilots in non-controlled airspace for separation from other traffic or guidance to the airport.

The primary purpose of ATC worldwide is to prevent collisions, organize and expedite the flow of air traffic, and provide information and other support for pilots. In some countries, ATC plays a security or defensive role when military aircraft are recognized. To prevent collisions, ATC enforces flight rules; maintains separation between aircraft; directs traffic; issues instructions to maintain safe distances, alt

Air Traffic Control (ATC) is the service provided by ground based controllers who direct aircraft on the ground and through controlled airspace. Controllers work in control towers, approach (terminal) controls or area controls. The positions are highly complex and require years of training to become proficient.

A controller’s primary task is to separate aircraft to prevent collisions, organizing and sequencing the traffic, providing information to pilots, issuing instructions to ensure that each pilot is aware of the traffic situation and providing advice and clearances for the safe and efficient conduct of flight. A controller must maintain awareness of all aircraft under their control at all times and issue appropriate clearances in order to minimize delays and provide a safe, orderly, and expeditious flow of traffic.

What does an air traffic controller do?

An air traffic controller clears airplanes for takeoff and landing, and monitors aircraft en route. In the U.S., air traffic controllers are government employees working for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA is part of the Department of Transportation (DOT).

What kind of training do you need to become an air traffic controller?

To become a controller, you must be a U.S. citizen and pass a medical exam, background check, and drug test. You must also complete a training program at the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. In the academy you will learn how to use radar to direct planes that are taking off or landing at airports. You will also receive instruction on how to guide planes flying above 18,000 feet.

I’m a professional air traffic controller. One of the most common questions I get asked is “How did you get into air traffic control?” I’ve gotten this question so many times that I thought it might be useful to have an answer already written.

So if you’re interested in becoming an air traffic controller, or just want to learn more about how air traffic control works, this page is for you.

Let me start by saying being an air traffic controller is a great job. It’s challenging, interesting and pays well (the median salary for a full-time, permanent FAA air traffic controller is $105,000 per year). But there are two things that frequently surprise people about the job:


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