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Air traffic controllers are responsible for managing commercial aircraft throughout all aspects of flight, prioritising safety and working towards plane taking off and landing on time. They need to help pilots take off and land safely at airports and monitor all aircraft travelling throughout the UK.
Air traffic controllers use navigation and satellite surveillance to communicate with pilots via radio, informing them of any changes to flight plan or weather conditions. There are 2,500 air traffic controllers in the UK, most of which are employed by NATS Ltd, the largest air traffic control company. They will often be based in the towers at airports, but their range of control can span for hundreds of miles, monitoring the 2.5million flights that go through the UK every year.
There are three main areas of responsibility for air traffic controllers:
Air traffic controllers have a lot of responsibility in the safe and smooth running of an airport and surrounding airspace. They often help pilots with flight plans, advising them on when to change them due to weather conditions or changes in security. As well as UK aircraft, air traffic controllers may occasionally need to communicate with their foreign counterparts, regarding one of their own aircrafts.
It is important for air traffic controllers to be calm, collected and easy communicators. They must be able to problem-solve quickly but calmly in emergency situations, for example, informing, instructing and guiding a light aircraft to safety that has lost its way in bad weather.
Air traffic controllers that work for the military will have similar roles, communicating with the RAF pilots and managing the air field. They also communicate with civilian and commercial air authorities to ensure civilian aircraft can pass safely through their airspace.
Air traffic controllers are also needed in military aviation. To find out more about this area please visit our Royal Air Force job path.