Air Traffic Control

The Basics

Types Of Air Traffic Control

Exams and Licenses

  • Class 3 Medical – CAA
  • Student Air Traffic Controller License
  • Unit Endorsement Course
  • Training in Abnormal and Emergency Situations (ABES) and Human Factors
  • ATCO (Air Traffic Controller License) incl. rating and rating endorsement)

Locations (for NATS, the main employers of controllers)

  • Main Control Centres:
  • Swanwick – Hampshire
  • Prestwick – Ayrshire


  • Aberdeen
  • Belfast City
  • Belfast International
  • Bristol
  • Cardiff
  • Farnborough
  • Gibraltar International
  • Glasgow
  • Heathrow
  • London CIty
  • Luton
  • Manchester
  • Southampton
  • Stansted

Air Traffic Services

The term Air Traffic Control is often used as a general term for the supervision of air traffic, however, the accurate name for it is ‘Air Traffic Services. This covers 3 parts which are:
Air Traffic Control Service (ATC) which is provided to controlled flights within controlled airspace. This is a term to cover an area control center, approach control or aerodrome control tower.
The Flight Information Service (FIS) which provides pertinent information to all traffic within a flight information region. It is a unit established to provide flight information service and an alerting service.
The Alerting Service provides assistance to aircraft in distress (also within a flight information region).

Air Traffic Control is further broken down into:

Aerodrome Controller

Typically based in a Control Tower at an airport, an Aerodrome Controller (sometimes referred to as a ‘Tower Controller’) is responsible for the safety and movement of aircraft around an airfield.
They issue clearances to take off and land and route aircraft around the airfield so they can taxi safely between runways, stands and other areas they need to travel to.

Area Controller

Typically based at Control Centres (such as those at Prestwick and Swanwick in the UK), Area Controllers manage aircraft at higher altitudes (often five thousand feet and above). They are responsible for aircraft in the climb, descent and en-route phase of the flight.
Area Controllers issue levels, headings and speeds to separate aircraft, providing a safe and expeditious routing through the sector of airspace that they manage.

Approach Controller

Approach Controllers are typically based at airports, but those managing the big London airports are based at Swanwick.
They manage aircraft approaching an airport putting them into the most efficient sequence to land. They also manage those that have just departed the airport in their initial phases of flight.
Approach Controllers may also manage flights transiting the airspace around the airport.


  • Trainee Controller – £17,000 plus benefits
  • Qualified Controller – £37,014 – £41,253
  • Senior Controller – £100,000+

The time it takes to train:

12 – 18 months for initial training. Up to 3 years to be fully qualified

Annual Leave:

28 days per year plus public holidays

Skills and knowledge you’ll need:

  • concentration skills
  • knowledge of transport methods, costs and benefits
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • thinking and reasoning skills
  • complex problem-solving skills
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • to be flexible and open to change
  • the ability to use your judgment and make decisions
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages confidently
  • Restrictions and Requirements

You’ll need to:

  • pass security checks
  • pass a medical check
  • be over 18 years of age
  • You should be eligible to work in the UK.

You must be prepared to work anywhere in the UK.