Talk:Air traffic controller

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NPOV problems[edit]

This article is interesting, but has some creeping NPOV problems which need fixing Darkov 17:31 8 Jun 2003 (UTC)

Well, it definately has a pro-controller POV. On the other hand, whether that's justified is hard for anyone not a controller to estimate, and I can't imagine a controller not having the same POV :). I'd have to say that if controllers had the same error rate as my own profession, computer science, it would be horrendous. -- Pakaran 20:39, 10 Dec 2003 (UTC)

I'd simply suggest smoothing out some 'always'es and 'never's, even if it's just adding 'almost' beforehand. But I know too little about the profession to know how much to adjust where... Radagast 04:19, Feb 27, 2004 (UTC)

This article seems to have been sitting for ages with little in the way of changes. It would appear to have been written by an ATC and have a very significant bias. I am always very wary of claims such as:

At any one moment only one person can 'have the picture' in a given situation: a concept which is incomprehensible outside air traffic control.

I doubt that aviation psychologists would agree with that assertion. I also doubt that only one person could ever 'have the picture' or else ATCs could never hand over their load to someone else. One solution would be to delete the article completely and wait for someone else to enter something which was hopefully less partisan. A less radical approach would be to remove all of the absolute statements and see what people do about that. The article on air traffic control is much more balanced but is very much written from a regular public transport perspective. --CloudSurfer 07:58, 13 Sep 2004 (UTC)

The article still appears to have some NPOV problems. For months this article has had a has a "very defensive, pro-air traffic control tone and doesn't really read like an encyclopedia article". -- FirstPrinciples 05:46, Nov 11, 2004 (UTC)


I have some personal knowledge of this topic -- fairly close acquaintance with an ATC and I've been given a behind-the-scenes tour of his center. (If you ever get that chance, jump on it!) Anyway, the guy who wrote this original must have been an ATC with some "issues", because half of it is pretty much saying "you can't computerize us", which is more or less a union position but the controllers are generally much more comfortable with technology and have their own frustrations at FAA shortfalls in this area. I hope that my edits remove 80% of the NPOV and the reorganization of the content and addition of some new issues help to broaden the article and make it worthwhile.

I did keep wondering why this profession needs a page of its own, when few others do. I tried to make it complement air traffic control as much as I could. I think it needs a couple of once-overs by someone else at this point; I'm pretty worn out by this effort! Frankly, I wish I'd just written a new article instead of trying to salvage the old -- it was like getting the tiger by the tail. --Dhartung | Talk 01:05, 12 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Do you think the article should be merged with Air Traffic Control? It might be for the best. -- FirstPrinciples 01:47, Dec 12, 2004 (UTC)
P.S. The article is now 10000% better :) -- FirstPrinciples 04:06, Dec 12, 2004 (UTC)
Thanks for the kudos! I did consider that but I didn't want to contemplate merging until I saw what I could salvage. I did try to differentiate some professional issues that aren't necessarily intrinsic to the other article. If someone wants to tackle the merge, they have my blessing ... --Dhartung | Talk 08:14, 12 Dec 2004 (UTC)
It's looking fairly good now; I've removed the attention and NPOV notices. I don't think merging with the ATC article is desirable; this article can focus on the aspects of the controller's job. -R. S. Shaw 22:04, 2004 Dec 12 (UTC)

Major rewrite[edit]

Hello all. I did a major rewrite of this page a couple of days ago. I thought there were some misconceptions and inaccuracies and to clear those up, I wound up with something that almost is an "air traffic control" article instead of "air traffic controllER."

However, the inaccuracy of statements that tools are little changed since the 1940s and that strips are passed from one controller to the next fairly screamed for revision. I know it needs some links, and when I get a chance to do some surfing, I'll try to insert some.

I was a controller for 30 years (1968-98) and I tried very hard to maintain NPOV. I am open to any and all suggestions including STFU if you think that's needed. Also, I will be happy to answer any questions.

Something to consider is that there is a world of difference between tower controllers and their operations and center controllers and their operations. It's hard to do an article on the subject without at least noting, if not delineating, those differences.

LRod 23:52, 2 Apr 2005 (UTC)

We certainly welcome your input, but did you realize there already is an air traffic control article? Most of what you added belongs there. If you see above I wasn't motivated to tackle merging the two. Wikipedia tends more toward defining terms like air traffic control and farming than air traffic controller and farmer, so ultimately this probably should be one single article that has only partial focus on the professional ATC, if only because that is such a leading temptation to the kinds of POV problems that this article had to begin with. --Dhartung | Talk 00:03, 3 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Yes, I realized that, after I had already done the writing. That was the genesis of my 'I wound up with something that almost is an "air traffic control" article instead of "air traffic controllER." ' comment.
I concur that whatever part of what I wrote that people think is valuable should be merged with whatever part of the "control" article people think is worth retaining. A "controller" article then should probably just be something to the effect of "one who performs ATC" with a redirect to the "control" article.
After 59 years I know that my writing is technically competent, but since it's very hard to self evaluate POV, could you tell me if it seemed so to you or did it come across reasonably neutral?
LRod 03:06, 3 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Brain fade[edit]

I made a small but fairly significant edit to this page. I deleted the bit that said that "brain fade" is almost never a reason for a break, because it's absolute garbage.

For those that would dispute this, I'd point to significant amounts of literature and studies that have been done to show the opposite. (specifically 6.1.5, Time On Position) is a good example.

Nearly every major ATC provider in the industrialized world has a two-hour guideline for maximum time on position between breaks, and for this reason I feel fairly safe and justified in making this edit.

Discussion to follow, I'm sure.  :)

Paul ZSE

Paul, I think you did fine -- adding supported statements should not be controversial. The article has been through two "major rewrites" -- see above -- but still has a few severe blots here and there. --Dhartung | Talk 00:11, 24 July 2005 (UTC)


Did anyone notice that this is exclusively about controllers in the US? For instance, air traffic controllers in the rest of the world are not accredited by the FAA, and go to schools in their home country, and for all I know do completely different stuff on the job. 03:25, 18 February 2006 (UTC)

LOL If they do something other than air traffic control on their job, they're hardly "air traffic controllers", are they?  ;)
But you do make a good point- the article is very much United-States-centric.
FWIW, through, I'm a controller, I've traveled internationally and met other controllers from other nations, and for the most part found that they are a great deal like the controllers in the States.
The problem with this article and the one on air traffic control is that the two are so closely blended that it's hard to describe one without the other. Maybe someday, someone will get motivated enough to do something about it; until then, this is what we've got. --Enumclaw 06:25, 20 February 2006 (UTC)

I'd have to agree that many articles on Wikipedia are slightly United-States-centric, but that will tend to happen with Americans making up most of the contributors. CleanAir 16:00, 27 April 2006 (UTC)

Someone had inserted a reference to the "Kansas City Pitch" newspaper article that discussed the issues with the FAA's contract and NATCA. Someone else deleted it, saying that the Pitch is "not a legitimate news source".
The Pitch is read by over 250,000 people each month. It is part of the Village Voice Media Incorporated family of newspapers, the biggest conglomerate and publisher of metro area weekly newspapers in the United States. To claim that a major metro area's newsweekly is "not a legitimate news source" is, in my opinion, ridiculous. Therefore, I reinserted the paragraph. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Enumclaw (talkcontribs) 01:49, 2 December 2007 (UTC)


It was a shame to have to re-write this one, as it was an interesting narrative that appears to have been written by a fellow controller. However it was lacking concision, badly POV and US-centric. I've completely re-written it.

I haven't removed the introduction on Air Traffic Control. My head tells me that this doesn't belong here, but I'm loathe to remove it completely. If this offends other wikipedians' sensibilities, feel free to replace it with a link to the Air Traffic Control article. BaseTurnComplete 13:33, 21 April 2006 (UTC)

R.S.Shaw has included a lot of text about the 1981 US Air Traffic Controllers' strike, and other stuff specific to labour relations inside US Air Traffic Control. This is definitely not the place for this stuff, indeed there is already a wkipedia page about the 1981 strike (that redirects to the PATCO page). Deleted, and the other text on becoming an Air Traffic Controller is now more clearly associated with the US. BaseTurnComplete 21:05, 29 July 2006 (UTC).

5 years OJT ???[edit]

I see that someone has changed the length of the OJT phase from 6 to 12 months to 2 to 5 years.

The busiest sectors of UK ATC take a maximum of 1 year's OJT, and that's in some of the busiest and most complex airspace in the world. I can't for a second believe that OJT elsewhere takes significantly longer than that, unless the training is very inefficient. I've changed this back.BaseTurnComplete 20:18, 3 November 2006 (UTC)

OJT in a TRACON or Center in the U.S. will definately take 2-5 years. For the first year all you do is chase strips and play assistant controller. Its a good 18 months before you're ready to work a scope even somewhat independently... with most controllers reaching FPL around the 3 year mark. I've made some additions that allow for both avenues of thought. -- 06:34, 18 November 2006 (UTC)

Fair enough, I rv'd as it looked like vandalism. It might be worth just having a single general comment though. Also it seems that in the U.S. you classify some training (e.g. strip-bashing) as OJT that we don't over here - here OJT only formally starts when you first sit at the radar. That pushes our OJT in busy units closer to the 18 month mark, but still not 2 - 5 years! BaseTurnComplete 16:41, 22 November 2006 (UTC)
Remember also that your entire country is roughly the same size as a medium sized state over here. You guys likely don't see the volume that a hub like New York or Aurora or LA sees... in an ARTCC, controllers don't jump right on a scope, they spend a lot of time learning center procedures and the nuances of a sector before theyre allowed to control. The facility training program for Center controllers is pretty rigorous... not to denigrate the ATC you folks do in the UK, but you just can't compare the traffic counts. -- 23:06, 2 December 2006 (UTC)
London's comparable in traffic and complexity to the busiest US centers, remembering that lots of busy airports in a smallish area that you correctly point out massively increases the complexity of the traffic. However it's still only 18-or-so months for unit training in London. I think it's just a case of different training systems. 12:36, 28 December 2006 (UTC)

Stable Schedule[edit]

"...the benefits of the job include a stable structured shift pattern..." For what it's worth: during the course of a 5 day week I will usually work 3 different time slots. On a good week I'll work 2 days starting at 1500, 2 days starting at 0700 then finish up with a mid-shift. That means I have 2 quick turns (shifts with the minimum allowed 8 hour rest period). Last month a coworker was on leave and I was covering his mids. My weekly schedule then was 15-15-7-M-M. That meant I had 3 consecutive shifts with the minimum allowed 8 hours between them. I realize that because I work at a relatively small facility that is open 24hrs, my schedule is probably more erratic then many others. However in the 5 years or so that I've been fortunate enough to be a controller I don't recall many people mentioning the great the work hours or how nice it is to work holidays and weekends when talking about the benefits of the job. Sykocus 16:44, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

Ouch. That sort of shift pattern would be illegal for a controller in the UK. 7-7-14-14-22-22-Rest-Off-Off-Off is the norm at 24 hour units here.BaseTurnComplete 21:13, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

One should not compare UK training to USA training timeframes. In the USA there are many variables to the time it takes to being fully qualified. The varibles to consider are: Is the the facility an up/down facility (training in the tower and radar), How many positions/sectors are there to train on. How much time is a lotted for a trainee used to maintain currency on positions/sectors they are qualified on. For example in the USA a top ten (busiest) world rated airport there are 20 total positions to train and certify on. If they averaged 2 months per position to qualify then it would take 40 months to be a fully qualified controller. The other factor in in USA air traffic is the "Hub and Spoke " system. This creates traffic saturation periods that are not normally experienced in other parts of the world. This is the same reason why you can't compare system delays the same either. In future postings one should identify the system they are refering too and not generalize. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:08, 16 October 2008 (UTC)

Swedish training[edit]

Would it be of any worth if I put in a few words about the Swedish training? I'm from Sweden, and sent in my application for ATC education a few days ago. Obviously I don't know all too much, but I could certainly provide a couple of sentences. Jack Daw 13:56, 22 April 2007 (UTC)

Civilian ATC[edit]

I think it is necessary to have a picture depicting a civilian ATC on the job. As of know there are only military ones. FEVB (talk) 15:16, 14 December 2007 (UTC)

Cultural References[edit]

This is probably a bit nitpicky and not that important when considering the article as a whole, but I don't believe the description of the movie Ground Control is accurate. The article states that Kiefer Sutherland's character (Jack Harris) "caused the crash of an airliner due to an operational mistake". Now I am not a controller myself, but having recently watched this movie, I can say that I don't believe he caused the crash. Transair 290 reported flames on engine #2. Harris immediately went into action to clear traffic and gave him emergency clearance to land. He also got them to report the number of souls on board. The only "mistake" I could see is that he advised Transair 290 to ignore TCAS and continue it's descent. Again, I am not a controller, but it is my understanding that a TCAS Resolution Advisory has a higher priority than ATC. Was it because they were following emergency procedures or was this truly an operational error? If it was, then the error was the pilot's, right? The pilot ultimately makes the decision of who's orders to follow.--Sbarne3 (talk) 15:22, 25 February 2009 (UTC)

Job ad[edit]

Kind of reads like a job ad, is there a template for that? Also, a loooot of weaseling. Rajakhr (talk) 18:30, 3 May 2010 (UTC)

Merger proposal[edit]

I ran across the Control Tower Operator page on a random search; it's a stub and an orphan, and links out to a number of red links. I considered simply proposing deletion of Control Tower Operator, but I'm no expert on the subject, and I see it does include a few details about the certification process (albeit without references) that might be worth incorporating here... so I thought I'd toss out a merge proposal, and see what people think. --DGaw (talk) 03:44, 17 October 2010 (UTC)

Any thoughts, anyone? If not, shall I just tag the CTO article for removal? --DGaw (talk) 14:55, 19 October 2010 (UTC)
Based on the level of response, it appears eliminating the Control Tower Article is uncontroversial, so I'm going to go ahead and redirect it here. --DGaw (talk) 03:15, 23 October 2010 (UTC)

CTO is sort of a subset of ATC, so no big deal merging. But it looks like you just did a redirect instead of merger. How about copying the prior content over here? (talk) 03:57, 16 November 2010 (UTC)

Neutrality of Spain's section[edit]

The Spain section of the article exhibits poor English, and looks as if written by a Spanish ATC himself/herself (e.g. blaming the government and ATA for the problems in the system). Especially given that there is an ongoing labor conflict between controllers and their employer, it would be advisable that the article is revised in more neutral terms, and if posible including both points of view in the dispute. MarkamBey (talk) 18:37, 3 December 2010 (UTC)

If you take a look at current Spanish events, you will know that section reflect only controllers POV. An example: --Comae 00:16, 4 December 2010 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by Comae (talkcontribs)

another unsigned comment, please provide us with an understandable link, rephrase, mostly erase the whole section as it doesnt meet wikipedia standards —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:55, 4 December 2010 (UTC)

The main problem with Spanish air controllers is that using their position to put pressure on different Governments over the years and taking passengers as hostages they have come to make an average salary of 350000 euros a year (about 500000 dollars year) some of them making more than 900.000 euros a year, a situation that the government finds unacceptable and is trying to control. You can find information about it all over the web now as a result of the recent strike. Here you have just an example:

In this article you can see the reality behind the air traffic control issues in Spain, with salary comparisons with other countries like the UK and France. In short, some of these guys make more than 1.2 million a year¡ and the money comes from a public company with losses, that is, the money comes from hard working Spanish citizens who pay their taxes and who make an average salary of about 18.000 euros a year or about 24ooo dollars, according to the figures given in this article. Simply outrageous. Boob (talk) 20:55, 7 December 2010 (UTC) Average salary of Spanish ATCO's do not reach 350.000€ I see my salary every month, I talk with comrades and we are far away this figures and you can read it on Official State Bulletin. 90.000€ its more realistic.

Our salary comes from taxes only paid by people that use air transport (tower, approach and en route taxes, published on AIP Spain).

With previous president there were no economic problems in AENA and surplus was used to buy pictures & sculptures as you can admire at several airports because AENA should not have benefits but invest them on airports. What has changed? Spend thousands millions on airports with less than 50.000 passengers per year and new terminal areas of Madrid, Barcelona and Malaga. (AENA economics reports

ATCO salary is just a lie, a bluff to cover other business as building airports or sell the profitable ones at low price. A lie as spanish ATC strikes, not a single one on last 20 years.

On December 3rd 2010 controllers simply exploded due to another Royal Decree (3 this year) increasing working hours per year... that afternoon many ATCO's refused to work due to non suited psychophysical conditions. AENA preferred a closed spanish airspace instead of delays. It's more spectacular. Now spanish ATCO's are "militarised" this basically meant that if the controllers refused to return to work, they could be sent to prison under military law.

Safety is compromised due to working conditions. (talk) 20:55, 7 December 2010 (UTC)

I have removed most offending sentences from the section. Unfortunately, the section is now lacking in proper detail and explanation. Someone more knowledgeable about the situation will have to expand the section with proper references and sources. (talk) 20:09, 8 December 2010 (UTC)

Sorry, I have removed last sentence of de section due to its falseness: [1] (talk) 23:23, 8 December 2010 (UTC)

What about all those capable of contolling spanish airspace but are assigned a burocratic role in Aena. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:52, 13 December 2010 (UTC)

Removed inflammatory section in "Stress"[edit]

I am new to this, but the following edit was mine: 11:09, 4 August 2011 (talk) (19,330 bytes) (Took out info added Jan 2011 which quotes questionable research from the early 1980's. Removed contradictory mention of regular schedules.) (undo) (Tag: references removed)

There was a section added on 19 January 2011 by Psychomagician which quoted two papers from the very early 1980's both published in Washington, DC by Federal Aviation Administration Office of Aviation Medicine. The third reference appears to be one of these papers republished with the word "surprising" added to the title. I note that these papers come out exactly around the time of the American air traffic controller's strike which was famously ended by Reagan. I feel confident there is more current and much more independent research into the matter within the last 30 years and that this section was not added in good faith. I also will note that this paragraph was seemingly added to directly conflict with the information that proceeded it. I could not let it stand!

I also took out the last sentence regarding work schedules which directly conflicted information in paragraphs above. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:43, 4 August 2011 (UTC)

  1. ^