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:
- How To Become An Air Traffic Controller: The Insider’s Guide: 1 (How2become Series) - A relative simple, yet inexpensive book
- Flightpath: Aviation English for Pilots and ATCOs Student’s Book with Audio CDs (3) and DVD- This book will help you training for the level of (ICAO4) English required by both the ICAO (international) and CAA (UK).
- Air Traffic Control Test Prep (Air Traffic Control Test Preparation)- Even though this book for the US FAA Air Traffic Controller training programs, it an inexpensive way to practice your exams (most can be applied to the UK exams.
- Air Traffic Control Career Prep: A Comprehensive Guide to One of the Best-Paying Federal Government Careers, Including Test Preparation for the Initial ATC Exams- Another book for the US FAA Air Traffic Controller training programs, but still worth looking into due to similarities with the UK air traffic control training programs.
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
Air Traffic Control Jobs
Our partner site Airport Career has an extensive section on air traffic control jobs. Here you will find job descriptions and requirements, salary information and required training. Read more about Air Traffic Control Jobs.
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