How to become an Air Traffic Controller (ATC)

Air Traffic Controllers (ATC) have a challenging job directing air traffic to land and take off safely. These are just a small part of their challenging job. ATCs require special skills to ensure air traffic safety and they receive special training on being recruited. Find out how you can join this service and become a part of the aviation industry.

The primary duty of Air Traffic Controllers (ATC) is to manage positions of different aeroplanes, to avoid collisions. However, their duty is not limited to safeguarding aeroplanes from mid-air collisions. They are also responsible for ensuring that there are minimal delays in landing and taking off, especially at busy airports, that see a lot of traffic. It is their job to guarantee that airports they are positioned at run efficiently.

ATCs work in conjunction with a large assemblage of technicians and equipment to ensure aeroplane safety on the ground and in the sky. As a rule, each ATC, on duty, is consigned a certain number of aeroplanes that enter the airspace of the airport they are at. They make contact with the captain and keep communication channels open until the aeroplane lands or exists the airspace. They use a two-way radio communication system for their communications.

Part of their job entails –

  • Staying in communication with airplanes preparing to take off or for landing
  • Directing pilots to change altitude and conveying new cruising levels
  • Helping airplanes maintain safe distance on the ground and in the sky
  • Guiding airplanes to runways, during take-offs and landings
  • Dealing with emergencies

What is the job like

It is a high-pressure job, especially for ATCs working at major airports that see a lot of traffic. Also, airports work around-the-clock, so ATCs have to work on a shift system and have to mandatorily do the graveyard shift as well.

The work can get dull and repetitive, as the same procedures have to be repeated over and over again. Nonetheless, it is not an easy job, because a slight lapse can cause accidents. They have to get used to wearing earphones on the job and working long hours.

Pros and cons of the job

The biggest advantage of being an ATC is job stability. The airline industry is only going to expand and the chances of getting laid off are almost zilch.

The disadvantages include irregular working hours and the fact that it is a demanding and monotonous job. It is a job of precision and an error on the ATCs part could be catastrophic.

Basic qualifications

The Airport Authority of India (AAI) recruits ATCs through an entrance examination. To be eligible to apply for this, candidates must meet the following requirements –

Educational qualification

Candidates must have a first class engineering degree with specialisation in Electronics in one of the following disciplines -
  • Electronics Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Tele Communication Engineering
  • Radio Engineering

Alternatively, they can have a first class MSc degree or its equivalent in any of the following subjects –

  • Electronics
  • Radio Engineering
  • Radio Physics
  • Wireless Communication

Age limit

The candidate must not be younger than 21 years or older than 27 years at the time of applying for the civil ATC entrance test.

Selection criterion

The entrance test consists of a written test comprising of two sections –

  • Paper – 1 on subjects related to the applicants educational qualification
  • Paper – 2 on GK, English, General Intelligence and Aptitude

The applicant has to undergo the following –

  • Voice test
  • Interview
  • Medical fitness tests as per International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standards

Reservation policy as laid down by the GOI applies to Ex-Servicemen, OBC, SC & ST. There is no quota for physically challenged individuals.

Training of qualified candidates

Candidates who qualify all levels of the entrance test are sent for training to Civil Aviation Training Colleges located in Hyderabad or Allahabad.

The training programme lasts for a year and is soon to be divided into two six months modules. The training programme consists of the following modules –

  • Aerodromes & Ground Aids
  • Air Legislation
  • Air Navigation
  • Air Traffic Services
  • Communication Procedures
  • Meteorology
  • Search & Rescue
  • Technical

The cost of the training is borne by the employer, the Airport Authority of India (AAI). Trainees receive a stipend of Rs.7,500 and free boarding & lodging at the Civil Aviation Training College (CATC).

Candidates must secure 70% in all modules to be judged as qualified. Candidates can attempt the exams not more than twice.

Appointment post training

In India, the AAI is the only employer of civil ATCs. A few organisations such as Hindustan Aeronautical Limited and a few private airports do employ ATCs, but they are taken on deputation from the AAI. Training commences after candidates are recruited, which happens only after they qualify the exams. Candidates who qualify the training are certain of a job. Upon completion of the training, candidates are posted as Junior Executive (ATC).

How much does an ATC make

The salaries of ATCs, are primarily based on three things –

  • Qualification
  • Experience
  • Location

The first appointment a candidate receives is that of Junior Executive (ATC) with a salary of Rs.16400-40500. Beside this, there are various allowances that ATCs are entitled to depending largely upon the city they are posted and the ATC skills they acquire (known as Rating Allowances).

Other points to note

Since the AAI is the sole employer and comes under the Central Government, the ATCs can be posted to any part of India. It is a transferable job.

Career growth

The career growth follows the followings pattern –

  • Junior Executive
  • Asst. Manager
  • Manager
  • Senior Manager
  • Asst. General Manager
  • Deputy General Manager
  • Joint General Manager
  • General Manager
  • Executive Director Air Traffic Management ATM)
  • Member ATM in AAI Board

If you want to be part of the aviation industry then this job might prove to be the best option for you. The AAI periodically invites applications for recruitment of ATCs via its Official Website. Find detailed information on the selection and application submission procedure for ATC on the AAI website.

Article by Juana
Juana is a freelance writer, with years of experience, creating content for varied online portals. She holds a degree in English Literature and has worked as a teacher and as a soft skill trainer. An avid reader, she writes on a variety of topics ranging from health, travel, education and personality development.

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