Little Known About (But Much Needed) Characteristics Of Air Traffic Controllers

Being an Air Traffic Controller is a somewhat thankless job since you’re basically keeping people safe each and every day but this is hardly ever recognised. Yet the moment something goes wrong…well you know how it goes.

The truth is Air Traffic Controllers are basically like the Greek Gods of mythology in that they control, direct and influence each and every aircraft in their domain, the sky. Some may even suggest Air Traffic Controllers exhibit super human tendencies in the way they are able to keep the ever increasingly busy and hectic skies safe.

Just how do they do it?

The truth of the matter is there are a helluva lot of expensive and impressive tools and equipment that aid Air Traffic Controllers in their mission to keep the skies safe and aircrafts efficient. However, despite how handy these tools and equipment are, they would be useless without the talented individuals using them.

Qualities Air Traffic Controllers must possess:

1. Ability to work and make decisions in a pressurised environment

Most people will be able to recognise how important this is. Making the wrong decision, or making no decision at all, can result in near misses, crashes and worse still, death. Air Traffic Controllers are under pressure a lot of the time and must be able to think fast, since the aircraft they are controlling can fly at enormously fast speeds. Delay or doubt is not an option.

2. Foresight and spatial awareness

Air Traffic Controllers almost have to have the ability to read minds and predict the future. They need to have the spatial awareness to know where each plane is in relation to all others in the nearby airspace and be able to keep them at a safe distance apart. They also need to have the foresight to be able to identify any potential issues and take the appropriate steps to ensure these issues never occur.

3. Ability to multitask

Even though people say men can’t multitask, you should trust that all Air Traffic Controllers, no matter their sex, can most definitely do so. You just wouldn’t be able to function in ATC without this ability because so much is needed at once, whether you need to talk to a pilot, analyse a radar signal, transmit or receive data and information or even just write up a report.

4. Memory

You must have a good memory to work in ATC. Without a good memory and the ability to remember past and recent events you could be putting people’s lives at risk. You must also be able to maintain this good memory under pressure (point 1).

5. Commanding and authoritative

Being an Air Traffic Controller means you have to direct and instruct pilots on a day to day basis. Many people will be familiar with the term often associated with pilots; the term being ‘god complex’. Whilst this is not to say all pilots are arrogant and difficult to deal with, it is worth keeping it in mind because you need to have the authority to make them listen to you. This is incredibly important when faced with emergency or unexpected situations.

6. Teamwork

As with any job, being able to work in a team is vital to the Air Traffic Controller role. Air Traffic Controllers must always be able to work well with others, since not doing so can result in utter chaos in the air. Working as a team will ensure air traffic is consistent, efficient and, above all, safe.

7. Resistance to boredom

We must accept any job carries elements of boredom; however, if you are working in ATC, it is important to be able to keep boredom at bay. If an Air Traffic Controller allows boredom to creep in, it may affect their performance and this can be, quite simply, disastrous for all those involved.

8. Ability to keep emotions at bay

As with boredom, it is really important for Air Traffic Controllers to leave any baggage and emotion at home before coming to work. Emotions really affect performance and can also seriously cloud your judgement, so being able to keep these in check is a real skill and one that is strongly exhibited by those working in ATC.

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James writes for Host Systems. When not writing about Host’s mobile air traffic control towers, he can often be found emulating the characteristics of air traffic controllers he admires.

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