Air Traffic Control

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               What is air traffic control? How is it done? What is the actual traffic in the air to control? All these questions came to my mind when I first came to know that I am going to be one of the “elite pressure handlers” in the world. Yes, I am referring to the air traffic controllers as ‘pressure handlers’. The analysis shows that “air traffic controlling” is one of the most stressful jobs in the world. Air traffic controlling is a very unique and highly responsible profession. Not many people know what it is all about. Sometimes people have asked me “oh yeah its like traffic police in the air right?”. This is nothing because there have been more funny questions about air traffic control. So today I am putting my experiences in ATC to share with people all about this exciting and nail-biting profession.

               Everyone knows that aviation kick-started after the successful flight of the Wright flyer by the wright brothers back in 1903. Does anyone know where and when “air traffic control” started? In 1929, the first air traffic controller, “Archie William League”, started to control aircraft with the help of visual signals in the form of flags. He used coloured flags for indicating landing, take-off and hold. Later he started using light guns which had different colours, to indicate aircraft about the actions to be taken. This technique is still used during radio communication failure with the use of high powered lamps, namely the Aldis lamp. Archie later obtained a degree in aeronautical engineering and in his 36-year career he played a very important role in developing the federal air traffic control system which now has evolved as the “Federal Aviation Authority” shortly abbreviated as FAA.

               Over the years air traffic control has undergone a lot of technological modifications and year after year the procedures are revised so that the objectives of air traffic control are met effectively. Well, now you may ask “what are the objectives?”; they are

1. Prevent collision between aircraft

2. Prevent collision between aircraft in the manoeuvring area and obstructions in that area

3. Expedite and maintain an orderly flow of air traffic

4. Provide advice and information useful for the safe and efficient conduct of flights

5. Notify appropriate organizations regarding aircraft in need of search and rescue aid and assist such organizations as and when required.

Every air traffic control unit works towards accomplishing the above-mentioned objectives. Now coming to the division of the air traffic control system; it is divided as follows

(a) aerodrome control – all movements in the aerodrome and in the vicinity of the aerodrome is controlled by this service

(b) approach control – all aircraft flying beyond the vicinity of the airfield but close to the aerodrome are controlled by this service; specifically for approaches for landing

(c) area control – aircraft in a particular area designated as the flight information region or the FIR are under the control of this service.

               This is the basis of an air traffic control service. Air traffic control is all about controlling the metallic birds which fly artificially or with man’s aid and the important thing is not the controlling but “safe controlling” because it’s a serious game- a game of life and death, which is to be played only by the trained professionals who are capable of handling pressure and highly stressful situations. The air traffic control service in recent years has seen rapid modifications following numerous air disasters and crashes. These changes are devised and implemented by an international agency called the ICAO. It’s abbreviated as the “International Civil Aviation Organization” and is a body of the United Nations (UN). It acts as an independent body and has a president and members from different states. The ICAO was started after a group of members organized a committee post Second World War looking at the number of air operations that happened during the war and this committee was known as the “Chicago Convention”. The ICAO has numerous publications which involve docs, annexes and several circulars which are the basics of international civil aviation laws and procedures.

         Now comes the question “who is an air traffic controller?”. A person who carries out the above-mentioned services of air traffic control is called an Air Traffic Controller and he/she undergoes a regular specified duration of training in the field of ATC. He/she has to undergo a rigorous study and has to carry out duties of a controller in simulators before being certified as an air traffic controller. Well, I hope I have a given very little insight about “Air Traffic Control” and hope it is informative.

Your Friend

Vijay Vignesh


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