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Air Traffic Controller

Air Traffic Controller


Air traffic control is a fast-paced job that requires a mathematics background. The required math knowledge includes geometry and calculus. Additionally, air traffic controllers must understand geography and weather conditions, engineering, computers, aeronautics, and aviation regulations. A good air traffic controller must also possess strong communication and decisionmaking skills, the ability to read and understand symbols, and an aptitude for abstract reasoning and visualization of objects in three-dimensional space.

Using radar, computers, and optical scanning devices, air traffic controllers measure the vertical space, or altitude, between an aircraft and the ground, the speed of the aircraft in knots , the direction of the aircraft through the use of compass headings, and its distance from other aircraft. The air traffic controller monitors a plane's route based on a filed flight plan and watches for any deviation that could cause a collision.

Air traffic controllers use instrument flight rules to monitor all planes as they take off, travel to their destinations, and land. Pilots navigate using a very high-frequency omnidirectional range beacon that denotes the pilot's magnetic course and measures the distance from the plane to ground stations monitored by air traffic controllers.

Air traffic controllers must be able to remember rapidly changing data, keep track of numerous aircraft at once, and work calmly under stressful situations. In the United States, air traffic controllers work for the Federal Aviation Administration and must pass the federal civil service examination. Around the world, all air traffic controllers speak English, use Greenwich Mean Time , and measure meridians and longitudes in relation to the Prime Meridian .

see also Flight, Measurement of.

Lorraine Savage

Bibliography

Career Information Center, 8th ed. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2002.

Turner, James E. Air Traffic Controller: How to Prepare for One of the Highest-paying Government Jobs, 2nd ed. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990.

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air traffic control

air traffic control, the system by which airplanes are safely routed into and out of major airports. Air traffic control in the United States is centered in a number of regional control centers that route airplanes along established airways to airport traffic control centers. There Instrument Landing Systems and Microwave Landing Systems enable planes to land safely in almost any weather conditions. Air traffic controllers, who are responsible for maintaining safe distances between planes, are employees of the U.S. Dept. of Transportation. Air traffic control is made possible by special transponders installed in every commercial and many private aircraft, which automatically transmit information on a plane's altitude and speed to the ground controller. The distortion that often affects voice transmissions can be eliminated by the use of cockpit datalinks; collision avoidance systems provide further safety margins. Knowing the course, speed, and altitude of every plane in the sector, the controller can contact each in turn to give landing or course instructions. Modern air traffic control has contributed to making air travel far safer than highway travel, and on a passenger-mile basis safer even than rail travel.

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