What do Air Traffic Controllers do?

Control air traffic on and within vicinity of airport and movement of air traffic between altitude sectors and control centers according to established procedures and policies. Authorize, regulate, and control commercial airline flights according to government or company regulations to expedite and ensure flight safety.

  • Issue landing and take-off authorizations or instructions.
  • Monitor or direct the movement of aircraft within an assigned air space or on the ground at airports to minimize delays and maximize safety.
  • Monitor aircraft within a specific airspace, using radar, computer equipment, or visual references.
  • Inform pilots about nearby planes or potentially hazardous conditions, such as weather, speed and direction of wind, or visibility problems.
  • Provide flight path changes or directions to emergency landing fields for pilots traveling in bad weather or in emergency situations.
  • Alert airport emergency services in cases of emergency or when aircraft are experiencing difficulties.
  • Direct pilots to runways when space is available or direct them to maintain a traffic pattern until there is space for them to land.
  • Transfer control of departing flights to traffic control centers and accept control of arriving flights.
  • Direct ground traffic, including taxiing aircraft, maintenance or baggage vehicles, or airport workers.
  • Determine the timing or procedures for flight vector changes.
  • Maintain radio or telephone contact with adjacent control towers, terminal control units, or other area control centers to coordinate aircraft movement.
  • Contact pilots by radio to provide meteorological, navigational, or other information.
  • Initiate or coordinate searches for missing aircraft.
  • Check conditions and traffic at different altitudes in response to pilots' requests for altitude changes.
  • Relay air traffic information, such as courses, altitudes, or expected arrival times, to control centers.
  • Compile information about flights from flight plans, pilot reports, radar, or observations.
  • Inspect, adjust, or control radio equipment or airport lights.
  • Conduct pre-flight briefings on weather conditions, suggested routes, altitudes, indications of turbulence, or other flight safety information.
  • Analyze factors such as weather reports, fuel requirements, or maps to determine air routes.
  • Organize flight plans or traffic management plans to prepare for planes about to enter assigned airspace.
  • Review records or reports for clarity and completeness and maintain records or reports as required under federal law.
  • Complete daily activity reports and keep records of messages from aircraft.

Related Jobs (Air Traffic Controllers)

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Necessary Skills

  • Active Listening
  • Complex Problem Solving
  • Judgment and Decision Making
  • Monitoring
  • Speaking
  • Critical Thinking