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Air Traffic Control CareerWhere can I work?
By Kyle Garrett
While aircraft and pilots may steal the show when it comes to aviation, air traffic controllers are an absolutely essential element of the aviation industry. Without their highly-skilled eyes watching over and keeping pilots from running into each other, flying would harder than it already is. If you're considering an air traffic control career, chances are you already know this, but what you may not know is there are several places air traffic controllers work. Once you complete your training, you can work as a tower, TRACON, or En-route controller.
Of all the career paths available to air traffic controllers, this is probably the one most people picture. These controllers are generally located at the airport in the tower if there is one. They spend their days and nights overseeing operations at the airport level. They control local weather reporting and issuing clearances for taxi, takeoff, and landing. In short, tower controllers control the airport.
Terminal approach control
Terminal approach control, or TRACON, handle everything near the airport. They are usually located in the same facility as the tower controllers, but they don't handle traffic on the ground. TRACON handle every aircraft within a certain range--both inbound and outbound flights. They may see traffic for a specific field or, as is more common in larger cities, multiple fields. These controllers are primarily concerned with sequencing and spacing aircraft for safe arrivals and departures.
Last but not least, en-route controllers handle all the airspace between major metropolitan areas. They typically work in dedicated facilities that are much larger than airport towers known as "centers." The center controllers work together to handle all traffic in specific regions by relying on long-range radar and radio services. Once an aircraft is near its destination, the center controller will hand it off to approach control, who in turn will sequence the aircraft before handing it off to the tower controllers who will issue the landing clearance.
Air traffic controllers are an essential element of the aviation formula. They allow pilots to focus on flying their aircraft by providing weather services and helping pilots maintain separation in the sky. While the job may not come with as much glory as the pilot, air traffic controllers are the linchpin that keep the entire system safe and efficient.
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