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Air traffic control training

Air traffic control training
This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Air Traffic Controller

Air traffic control training, what do you need for becoming an ATCO?

Not many companies are offering air traffic control training. The reason for this is that it’s a very technical profession, and it involves a lot of practice with real equipment. And, the training organisation has to be certified by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which doesn’t come easy too. In fact, there are only three certified training organisations which can offer air traffic control training.

What is the role of an air traffic controller?

An air traffic controller (or ATCO) plays a very important role at and around Heathrow Airport. It supervises all flight traffic coming in and out of the airport. You will find more information about the job of an air traffic controller in this article: Air traffic controller jobs. And if you want to look for open vacancies right away, you can find them here: Air traffic controller vacancies.

What’s needed for becoming an air traffic controller?

The full air traffic controller training consists of several different courses which you need to take. The training centres will help you in this, since the list is long. To give you an example, these are some courses you can take:

  • Basic course for Aerodrome Control Instrument (ADI) rating/Approach Control Surveillance (APS) rating
  • Basic course for Area Control Surveillance (ACS) rating
  • Aerodrome Control Instrument (ADI) rating course
  • Approach Control Surveillance (APS) rating course
  • Area Control Surveillance (ACS) rating course

And this is all initial training. This means you need these courses to certify for your Student Air Traffic Controller License (Student ATCO License). Once that’s in the pocket, you can apply for a grant to get your Air Traffic Controller License (ATCO License). Again, the air traffic control training organisations will assist and advice you in this, just know that becoming an air traffic controller isn’t an easy task (but who thought it would be?). But, there’s one of the reasons why an air traffic controller salary is among the highest of airport staff. The requirements are very high (you also need to pass an medical assessment, and your comprehension of the English language need to be way above average), but the rewards make it up for it.

Where can you get air traffic control training?

Like mentioned above, there are three training organisation where you can undergo air traffic controller training. These are:

NATS is also the operator of most of the air traffic control stations in the UK, so they might seem a good fit. But the other facilities have earned their share as well, so you should check them all out. You will also find more information about the air traffic control training procedure at the CAA website here.

What does air traffic control training cost?

This seems to be a bit of a mystery. None of the training organisations offering air traffic control training lists prices on their website. And when you look at the NATS website, it seems you don’t even have to pay anything, and start earning right away (although they are not clear about the fact if this concerns Student ATCO, or those already enrolled in the full ATCO certification program). But expect it to be very expensive.

How can you prepare for air traffic control training?

Even though there’s nothing like the real deal, there are some great books which should help you prepare for your air traffic control training. Amazon has some great titles for you, which are really worth checking out:

Air traffic control test preparation:

Air traffic control reference books:

  • Fundamentals of Air Traffic Control- a pricey, but detailed – 672 pages – book about the full ins and out of air traffic control.
  • Jane’s Air Traffic Control 2012/2013- Jane’s put out a book on air traffic control as well, but it’s for the real hardcore enthusiasts. It offers detailed and current information on equipment and software used for by air traffic controllers. Oh, and for it to be affordable you have to be an ATCO first ;-)

Read more about:

Air Traffic Controller Jobs
Air Traffic Control Training
Air Traffic Controller Vacancies

Comments (13)

  • Brian Khan

    Hi My name is Brian and I’m 31 this year and I was wondering if there is a cut off age for when you can apply to be a Air traffic Controller license and if I was willing to pay for the course myself how much would it roughly cost?


    • Webmaster HeathrowCareers.co.uk

      Hi Brian,

      on this page you will find all relevant courses and entry information: Global ATS ATC Training

      It seems there’s no maximum age, and costs depend on which course you want to take on.

      Best of luck,
      Heathrow Careers

  • Jon harris

    Hi is there an upper age limit where you can longer be considered for training as an ATC?

    Many thanks

    • Webmaster HeathrowCareers.co.uk

      Hi Jon,

      there don’t seem to be an upper age limit, but there may be one when you actually apply for an ATC job.

      Best of luck,
      Heathrow Careers

  • Ajmeet


    I really want to an Air Traffic Controller and I’m 19 years old Unemployed for the past 10 days and I’m very confused on how and where to begin from being an ATC and plus I do not hold English GCSE at grade C every thing and I have over 5 GCSE’s at grade B and above just not English Also diploma in Mechanical Engineering,

  • Isabell

    Hi I’m Isabell and I’ve always wanted to be an air traffic controller, but two years ago I got diagnosed with Addisons disease and type one diabetes, I’m also asthmatic. Could I still become an air traffic controller or is this now impossible?

    • Webmaster HeathrowCareers.co.uk

      Hi Isabell,

      I’m afraid I can’t advise you on this, but what you could do is inform at the recruitment agent you will find over here: Air traffic controller vacancies. Or you can contact NATS (link), which runs the air traffic control on Heathrow Airport.
      Maybe by contacting them you can find out if it is still possible to become air traffic controller.

      Best of luck!
      Heathrow Careers

  • Alisa

    Hello, What if I have german passport and also live in Germany, can I still apply for the ATCO?

  • tejash patel

    hi my name is tejash patel i really want to become an air traffic controller to fulfill my dream and would like to know how much it would cost and would like to know if NATS would give a student of different nationality a chance to be a trainee with them and as well as work.

  • Kieron Haine

    Hello my name is Kieron and I am extreamly interested in being a air traffic controller and persuing this as my dream job. I am 17 and i want to know how much the training would be and if there is any training available and if i have to wait untill i am 18 or not.

    Would love to hear back from you,
    Kind regards,
    Kieron Haine

    • Webmaster HeathrowCareers.co.uk

      Hi Kieron,

      I will put your request here on the site, so someone maybe can pick it up :-)

      Webmaster HeathrowCareers.co.uk


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