About the role

The appeal of a career in air traffic control is stronger than ever. Each year, thousands of people express an interest in overseeing the UK’s busy airspace.

Inevitably, only a small proportion of people make it through our selection procedures. But the opportunities for those who do are greater now than at any time in the past.

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The opportunities for Air Traffic Controllers are greater than ever before.

Not only do we offer even more support for development and structured progression, but the international expansion of NATS adds another potential dimension to your career too. And that’s in addition to the attractive salary and benefits package which comes as part of this important job.

Understanding the role of the Controller

Pilots need active support from air traffic control to fly safely. Air Traffic Controllers (ATCOs) are also essential to the efficiency of airports and the airline industry. With the ever-increasing volume of traffic, managing flights is a complex and sometimes pressurised job.

As an ATCO, you’ll be using radar and other technology to track planes ‘en route’ between airports and keep in touch with pilots. Alternatively, you’ll be liaising with the planes on approach.

If you’re in charge of the airspace between airports, you’ll be called an Area or Terminal Controller. And if you’re helping pilots land, the role is described as an Approach or Aerodrome Controller.

Air Traffic Controller

Air Traffic Controllers (ATCOs) are essential to the efficiency of airports and the airline industry.

Area/Terminal Controllers

You’re likely to be based in one of our area control centres, although you might also be located at an airport tower. These roles will see you handling domestic traffic and planes flying through UK airspace.

Our Controllers at Swanwick deal with flights approaching London airports and those at Prestwick are responsible for aircraft flying across the Atlantic.

Swanwick Ops Room

Inside an Operations Room at our Swanwick Control Centre

Approach/Aerodrome Controllers

As an Approach Controller, you’ll be working at an airport, often in a Control Tower and guiding planes on approach, ensuring they’re ordered in the most efficient way.

The job of the Aerodrome Controller is to take over as they come into land. At a large airport, this role may be split between traffic that’s in the air and planes that are already on the ground.

Heathrow Tower

Inside Heathrow Tower at dusk

Who should apply?

It’s not possible to say there is one particular type of person who makes an ideal ATCO. People apply – and are accepted – from all kinds of backgrounds.

These online games will give you a sense of whether you might have the right kind of aptitude and skills for the role. They reflect the need to work under pressure, think in three dimensions and process information quickly and accurately.

There are also strict rules about who is eligible to apply. But if you think you might have the skills, and are eligible, then please explore the other pages in this section and think about applying.

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