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ATC Work Schedule  
User currently offlineSleekjet From United States of America, joined Jul 2001, 2054 posts, RR: 20
Posted (11 years 5 months 3 weeks 3 days 14 hours ago) and read 6109 times:

I'm curious about a typical work day for an ATC at a major airport. How long at a time are you in front of the screen? When you're replaced, how long is your break? What do you do during the break to unstress your brain?

Finally, how different is your work day if you are assigned to, say, Abilene, TX instead of DFW?

II Cor. 4:17-18
7 replies: All unread, jump to last
User currently offlineZID From United States of America, joined Jan 2002, 294 posts, RR: 4
Reply 1, posted (11 years 5 months 3 weeks 3 days 10 hours ago) and read 5997 times:

I know that you specifically asked about towers, but I'll give you a rundown of the typical workday at Indy center.

First off, we work rotating schedules. Most controllers at ZID work either a 2-night, 3-day schedule, or a 2-night, 2-day, 1-mid schedule, or a 3-night, 2-day schedule.

I have a 2-3 schedule. I'm off on Mondays and Tuesdays, I then work a 3 pm to 11 pm shift on Wednesday, a 2 pm to 10 pm shift on Thursday, an 8 am to 4 pm shift on Friday, a 7 am to 3 pm shift on Saturday, and a 6 am to 2 pm shift on Sunday.

While at work we usually work for an hour and a half on position during each session, then we take a forty minute break before going back to the area and starting again. They try to get us a break before we hit two hours since the brain starts to get a little mushy and prone to mistakes after two hours of continuous intense concentration.

While on break, some controllers read in the break room, others watch TV in the cafeteria, while others watch movies on portable DVD players, and some just walk around the center's grounds.

I'm not joking! This is my job!
User currently offlineSleekjet From United States of America, joined Jul 2001, 2054 posts, RR: 20
Reply 2, posted (11 years 5 months 3 weeks 3 days ago) and read 5971 times:

Great info. Does the FAA require controllers at less-busy airports to limit their "on" time as well?

II Cor. 4:17-18
User currently offlineCorey07850 From United States of America, joined Feb 2004, 2537 posts, RR: 4
Reply 3, posted (11 years 5 months 3 weeks 3 days ago) and read 5964 times:


How are controller changes handled? Does the controller off duty stand over the guy on-duty to watch the screens for a few minutes to see what is going on? Does the controller have to get briefed on the current situation?

Normally when I'm flying and there is a controller change, the new guy always seems to know exactly what is going on.

User currently offlineDColeMAN From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2004, 274 posts, RR: 9
Reply 4, posted (11 years 5 months 3 weeks 2 days 23 hours ago) and read 5957 times:

When I worked in MAN ATC last year, the controllers would usually work a six hour shift a day. Although the one's I were working on started from 0600 and finished at 1400. Usually each controller would start on one frequency (let's say the ground frequency) then after 60 minutes, they'd take a 15-30 minute break (watch TV or read a non-aviation magazine) to take their mind off the job. After the break they'd come back fresh and then work on a completely different frequency, such as approach control for another 60 minutes, etc etc...

Hope that helps.


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User currently offlinePPGMD From United States of America, joined Sep 2001, 2453 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (11 years 5 months 3 weeks 2 days 23 hours ago) and read 5956 times:

Does the controller have to get briefed on the current situation?

They have a change over check list that they run down during every controller replacement, that gives the new controller an idea of what's going on, and what he was trying to do with the traffic.

At least that's what my friends in the ATC told me when I asked during college.

At worst, you screw up and die.
User currently offlineATCisgreat From Germany, joined Apr 2004, 103 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (11 years 5 months 3 weeks 2 days 21 hours ago) and read 5946 times:

Position handovers cover the following things:
  • status of the military units surrounding us

  • evtl. TRA (temporary reserved airspace) activity

  • connected to that evtl. flight level restrictions

  • status of danger and restricted areas in and around our airspace

  • sector configuration of the ATC sectors around us

  • active runway for airports where that means different descent routes or profiles

  • sections of airspace delegated to another sector

  • unsolved conflicts

  • who has descent (evtl. rate or restriction)

  • who needs descent

  • who's on headings (why)

  • any tactical thing about the traffic picture

  • direct routings you have that day

  • which sector around you is in a good mood and with who you should be careful

  • any coordination that is still pending

  • evtl. turbulence

  • anything special concerning a flight (can range from "don't touch that one, you can't understand him" to some little problem a pilot reported about his aircraft - he might call for diversion or emergency the next minute)

    We don't have something like a written list, it's just the one mentioned above in your head. Basically you tell everything that's important. While you do, your colleague looks on the screen, gets the picture and in he goes. If it's busy we ask like "You have the picture?" or "You want me to stay?" and then you stay for a minute or two until he's really in. The handovers on the radar position are usually more tactical than those on the planner one.

    That's how it goes in our upper airspace center. I'm sure that the handovers of other units look a bit different.

    Hope this helps!

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    User currently offlineVidens From Argentina, joined Mar 2004, 133 posts, RR: 0
    Reply 7, posted (11 years 5 months 3 weeks 2 days 10 hours ago) and read 5902 times:

    What about really busy airports? A few times I landed in Chicago listening to Channel 9 on United and those controllers seem to almost loose their breath... Can they really do that for an entire hour or are their shifts shorter? Or their brakes longer?
    What about changeovers in such busy airspaces?

    Travel? Why would i travel if I can watch it on TV?
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