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air traffic controller career

Air Traffic Controller

The Role

The most important function of air traffic controllers is to ensure the safe flow of air traffic and to minimise delays.

Air traffic controllers are responsible for the prevention of collisions between aircraft. They must maintain an orderly flow of air traffic and provide useful information and instructions needed for the safe execution of aircraft in-flight. In cases of emergency they must notify the relevant search and rescue organizations.

Air traffic controllers work in well-equipped control centres with the most modern electronic equipment and navigational instruments at their disposal.

Air traffic control is a 24-hour service and air traffic controllers are therefore required to work shifts.

Entry Qualifications

At least five GCSEs, or equivalent, at grade C or above, including English and Maths, and be over the age of 18 on application.

Initial training to become an Air Traffic Controller (ATCO) takes place at NATS College of Air Traffic Control at Bournemouth Airport. From August 2011 the college will be moving to Whiteley, Fareham.

The college course lasts for at least 11 months for Area students and Terminal Control students , six months for Aerodrome students and nine months for Aerodrome/Approach students. If successful at the college you will then undergo validation training at your unit, the length of which will depend on the complexity of the unit and how quickly you progress. The times quoted above are the minimum expected to train and could be longer if you have to repeat part of the course.

Salary Expectations

Once you've completed your training, your salary will rise to £29,443* - £32,814*,  depending on the unit.

When you become an ATCO, on your third joining anniversary, subject to validation, your salary will rise to £42,061* - £46,878* plus shift pay of £5,543*. After qualifying, you could potentially earn over £91,000* (inclusive of shift pay) at Swanwick and Heathrow.

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