In the Day of an Air Traffic Controller
Managing all aspects of aircraft operations is the simplest way to describe the job of an Air Traffic Controller. Using navigation and surveillance to communicate advice, information and instructions to the pilots, Air Traffic Controllers have the reputation of having one of the most stressful jobs in the world.
Working in control towers at airports and area control centres, ATCs work eight hour shifts that can be at any time of the day because their services are needed 24/7. Suffice to say, there is quite the fluctuation in their shift work.
Some people would presume that the control room where Air Traffic Controllers work would be all action; employees yelling on their mics all dramatically “Your missing a wing November 5 0 1 Papa Mike, I repeat: You’re missing a wing!” Fortunately (or however you look at it,) there isn’t any of that craziness. It’s all calm, where a mood of nonchalant tranquility fills the control room.
For seasoned veteran Air Traffic Controller Becky Evans, working as an ATC isn’t as stressful as everybody thinks: “Everybody thinks it’s a really stressful job, but I don’t find it stressful. It’s actually extremely rewarding and satisfying when you’ve done it, and you’ve been sitting there for an hour and a half and it’s all gone really smoothly.” Becky explains that how over her eight year career, she’s only experienced one stressful situation. “If an aircraft says it’s got an engine failure or something, then there’s nothing you can do about that. If it’s within your control, you have to do the best you can do at that time.”
Other than having the odd extremely stressful day, ATCs have the reputation of having to battle staying awake more than stress: “All shift workers get sleepy.” explains Jeanne Geiger-Brown, an associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Nursing. According to her research, Air Traffic Controllers get an average of 2.3 hours of sleep before an overnight shift. “Twenty percent of workers doze off during the night shift. People aren’t machines.” The biggest issue is ATCs working while impaired by fatigue. For example: If a pilot says he is too tired to fly, he’s allowed to decline the flight without being punished. Unfortunately, there’s no same rule for ATCs.
In conclusion, being an Air Traffic Controller definitely isn’t for everybody. Battling immensely stressful situations, battling crazy work schedules, and sleep deprivation, ATCs are definitely a rare breed of people who seem to have either been born for the position, or have that passion to troop through all obstacles to complete their goals and experience the satisfaction of keeping people safe.
Air Traffic Controllers are unequivocally one of the few super heroes that inhabit this planet.