Air traffic controllers manage aircraft through all aspects of their flight with the priority of safety, followed by other aspects such as ensuring arrivals and departures are on time. They use navigation and surveillance to communicate advice, information and instructions to pilots via radio.
Air traffic controllers are well known for working in control towers at airports, but the majority actually work in area control centres. They are responsible for the en-route stage of the aircraft, using radar to track its exact position, keeping it safe in the airspace and providing the most efficient route.
There are also approach controllers who take over from the area controllers as the aircraft is approaching the airport. They give initial clearance for the aircraft to approach the airport and put all approaching aircraft into a sequence to create the most efficient order for landing.
At the last stage, aerodrome controllers take over. They are the ones who are at the top of the control towers and they guide the pilots in to make a safe landing. They also ensure that the aircraft gets to its parking stand safely and that those leaving the stands reach the runway safely. In some busy airports, the aerodrome controllers are divided into air control and ground control.
Air traffic controllers in the RAF, as well as ensuring that aircraft land and take off safely, make sure the air bases are maintained and prepared for emergencies. They also communicate with civilian air authorities to ensure civilian aircraft can pass safely through their airspace. For further information, see Royal Air Force Careers .
Tasks may very depending on whether you work as an area, approach or aerodrome controller, but they typically include:
Approach controllers deal with instrument landing systems, which allow some planes to make automatic landings, and ensure that planes are placed in holding patterns when airports are busy.
Aerodrome controllers guide the aircraft through landing and to its parking stand at the terminal. Their roles may be further sub-divided into air control and ground control at very busy airports. Their activities include:
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