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26TH IFATCA AFM Regional Meeting, 28 - 30 October 2015

Who is a Controller?

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Air Traffic Controllers are highly trained professionals whose objective is to expedite and maintain a safe and orderly flow of air traffic in the global air traffic control system.

Air traffic controllers use separation rules to prevent collisions between aircraft and move all aircraft safely and efficiently through their airspace.

Apart from the fact that air traffic controllers have an incredibly large responsibility while on duty, ATC is a very stressful job that requires specialized skills gained through high quality training and work experience.

Air traffic controllers are individuals who are well organized, have assertive and firm decision making skills and possess excellent short-term memory and visual memory abilities. Since communication is a vital part of ATC, controllers and pilots are trained to use special phraseology to help them communicate quickly and also to avoid any ambiguity and confusion since a single misunderstanding about an altitude or runway number for example can have tragic consequences.

Controllers communicate with pilots using a push-to-talk radiotelephony system, which can accommodate only one transmission at a time with English being the default language in ATC.
The three basic units in ATC are Tower or Aerodrome, Approach and Area or En route control.

Aerodrome Controllers control aircraft within the immediate vicinity of the aerodrome and use visual observation from the aerodrome or airport control tower. Aerodrome responsibilities can be split among several units such as Ground Control and Aerodrome Control (often known as Tower).

The main responsibilities of Aerodrome Controllers are the issuance of clearances prior to taxi, taxi instructions and authorizations for aircraft/vehicle movements on the aerodrome or airport and issues takeoff and landing instructions/clearances.

Approach Controllers are responsible for aircraft departing or arriving at an airport. An approach controller vectors departing aircraft and sets the aircraft on course before handing aircraft over to aerodrome controllers. On the other hand an approach controller vectors arriving aircraft and hands over the aircraft to aerodrome when the aircraft is aligned to the runway at a particular level and distance to touch down.

Area controllers handle aircraft during the entire en-route phase of flight issuing instructions to pilots and separating them from other aircraft.