How difficult is it to learn Air Traffic Control?

Can anyone do it with enough determination? I've read that you either have the ability or you don't. Is there a way to predetermine whether one will do well at ATC or fail at it?

If someone is better at English than at math would they be better off avoiding this profession?

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  • ReX
    Lv 5
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    No, i don't believe there is a reliable way to predetermine who "has it" and who doesn't.

    There is a certain amount of mental/emotional toughness that you must possess to finish training in this career field. A co-worker of mine used to say that he could train a monkey to separate planes. Procedures are set so that their are a minimum of conflicts without input from the controllers. But if there are conflicts, a controller must be attentive enough to spot it, quick enough to correct it, and cool enough to not get flustered when they see aircraft on a collision course. I've seen a lot of people wash out of the career field. Some knew the books pretty solidly, some had the perfect controller voice, a couple could spot conflicts three minutes in the future. But they all could not recover from making a mistake. "Mistake" meaning something minor that their trainer was able to ding them on--inefficient use of airspace or slight difficulty with a handoff or pointout procedure--not a "oops i guess they're dead now" mistake. Once they make a minor mistep, they began to forget about other aircraft or procedures. Maybe they forget a destination, let a VFR guy get out of the airspace they own. Then they'd let someone wander toward a restricted area, almost bust a delta...now they're having serious problems. They're done training for the day, because their confidence is shot and everyone who can hear their voice knows it.

    On the flip side, you have people who can barely pass a proficiency test, but they keep planes away from one another, they handle more traffic than a beltway, and they never get down. They will make it through training.

    Higher math is not required for ATC. As long as you can handle simple addition/subtraction with the numbers 0-36 (in your head), you'll be fine.

    Hope this helps.

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  • 1 decade ago

    The stress on an air traffic controller is very, very high and they have to be able to deal with the stress and still function at a very high level. So, not everyone can do and determination can't get you over the hump if you don't have the right mental make up.

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