Topic Author
Posts: 225
Joined: Sat Jun 13, 2009 10:39 am

Life As An Air Traffic Controller

Wed Aug 24, 2011 9:13 am

Evening all,

So I'm going to try for a career as an Air Traffic Controller. I'm well aware of what the job entails and have had all my questions answered with respect to assessment processes, training requirements, salaries, development opportunities, etc. I've done my research into all of those finer details.

What I'd like to hear is rather more general first-hand accounts of what it's actually like to work as an Air Traffic Controller. (Or perhaps you know someone who is one?) Do you enjoy your job? Do you find it to be a fulfilling career path? Would you recommend it? Things you don't like about the job?

If it makes any difference to your answer, I'll be applying as an ab initio candidate (the only related experience I have is a handful of hours as a private pilot).

In case you're wondering, no, I'm not seeking career guidance from an internet message board. I've already made the decision to apply, but would appreciate and respect your comments all the same.

When I die, when I die, I'll rot. But when I live, when I live, I'll give it all I've got.
Posts: 378
Joined: Tue May 30, 2006 10:53 am

RE: Life As An Air Traffic Controller

Wed Aug 24, 2011 12:29 pm

I love my career. The best decision of my life was to quit university during my Junior year, I was a geology major (kinda's rocks), and enlist in the Navy as a controller. I now work for the FAA at ORD ATCT and enjoy every single moment. What is my day like? Well, simply put, I get paid to play with airplanes. One session, I may be working Outbound Ground, the next, I may be rolling planes on 3rd Local, then issuing clearances on Clearance Delivery and finally, finishing my shift on Inbound Ground, which is akin to herding cats.

I have been fortunate to work at up/downs (Tower and TRACON combined), Towers and a Center. I did not enjoy my time at a ARTCC much. I found Enroute too cerebral, like chess. It's very strategic in thinking. Terminal, Tower or Approach, is more to my liking. The Terminal world is very tactical, short term planning. I enjoy that. I enjoy the rush and thrill of it.

Be aware that you will work nights, weekends and holidays. After awhile, Christmas will just be another day. As for downsides, I can think of two. First, training. Training is rough. Both, giving and receiving. It is an unpleasant experience, but a necessary one. My advice is to keep your mouth shut and your ears open. The most difficult thing I have ever undertook was training at ORD. Second, the chest beaters. These are the type A's, which all controllers are, that are on the far end of the spectrum, ultra type A's. Everyone is weak except for them, nobody moves more metal than them, so on and so forth. Yawn. Other than those two examples this profession is fantastic, very fulfilling, very rewarding. I thank God every day for what I do.

Best of luck to you,
I will have a Manhattan.
Posts: 3026
Joined: Sat Apr 17, 2004 4:54 am

RE: Life As An Air Traffic Controller

Wed Aug 24, 2011 2:20 pm

You'll have to get up early a lot. Often, the busiest times at an airport are between the hours of 5 a.m. and 8 a.m., so expect to be out of bed by 4 in the morning pretty often.

Also, training is ridiculously stressful. A few mistakes on the wrong test can sink your entire career before it's even started.

But other than those two things, it's a life full of fast women and faster airplanes ... haha. (seriously about the fast women though ... I'm not a controller, but from what I've heard from controller friends of mine, controller ladies are often outnumbered 5-1 by dudes, and therefore get more than their fair share of attention ...)
Do you like movies about gladiators?

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