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Air Traffic Control Specialists

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FAA air traffic control specialists share what they love about their jobs.

Every minute, every hour, every day, there are men and women working to ensure the safety and efficiency of our national airspace system.

This elite group of 14,000 FAA air traffic control specialists provide a vital public service to guide pilots, their planes and 2.2 million daily passengers from taxi to takeoff, through the air and back safely on the ground.

Because of the serious nature of this work and zero margin for error, the training regimen and proficiencies needed to become an air traffic control specialist, are demanding. This is a highly competitive entry-level employment opportunity. Initial selection does not guarantee placement into federal civilian service. All applicants must attend and complete required training courses at the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City.

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The code of a professional air traffic controller

Minimum Requirements:

  • Be a United States citizen
  • Be under the age of 31 on August 15, 2016*
  • Pass a medical examination
  • Pass a security investigation
  • Pass the FAA air traffic pre-employment tests*
  • Speak English clearly enough to be understood over communications equipment
  • Have three years of progressively responsible work experience, or a Bachelor's degree, or a combination of post-secondary education and work experience that totals three years
  • Be willing to relocate to an FAA facility based on agency staffing needs

Get answers to your frequently asked questions about air traffic control specialist requirements.

Learn more about the general Knowledge, Skills and Abilities (KSAs) of a successful air traffic control specialist.

Follow a flight across America and it's interaction with various FAA air traffic control facilities.

Test your knowledge of basic air traffic concepts on the FAA Academy study guide and self-assessment page.

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Matt Lauer spends a day at JFK Tower

Pay, Benefits, Hours

The median annual wage for air traffic control specialists was $122,950 in May 2015. The salaries for entry-level air traffic control specialists increase as they complete each new training phase.

The annual salary for more advanced controllers who have completed on-the-job training varies with the location of the facility, the complexity of the airspace, and other factors.

As a Federal employee, air traffic control specialists receive a benefits package that rivals, if not surpasses, those offered in the private sector, with a variety of insurance, retirement, leave and flexible spending options for employees and their families. Learn more about benefits.

Most air traffic control specialists work full time, and some work additional hours. Larger air traffic control facilities operate continuously, and employees may rotate among day, evening, and night shifts, along with weekends and holidays. Smaller facilities have more standard dawn to dusk operating hours.

Airway Transportation Systems Specialists

"Certified Safe" video

Watch how FAA Technicians Certify the Safety of the National Airspace System

Job Description

Airway Transportation Systems Specialist (Electronics Systems Technician) perform in the capacity of highly specialized electronics technicians. The primary duties of an ATSS are linked to maintaining the safe and efficient operating capacity of the vast and complex network of electronics systems required for the world's largest air traffic control and navigation system.

ATSS personnel install, evaluate, maintain, modify and certify facilities, systems, services and equipment that support the National Airspace System (NAS). They are also responsible for various auxiliary duties that contribute to providing reliable and safe FAA services to the flying public. This involves working with surveillance radar, weather, communications, automation, and navigational aid equipment as well as various environmental support facilities and equipment.

This work also includes periodic maintenance, modification, troubleshooting, repair and replacement of malfunctioning equipment, and certification. ATSSs may be required to maintain entire facilities, subsystems, or individual services or equipment that assist in the safe and expedient movement of air traffic throughout the NAS.

Note: The job duties listed are typical examples of work performed by ATSSs, however, not all duties assigned to every ATSS are included, nor it is expected that all ATSSs will be assigned every duty.

The following five specialties encompass the duties of an ATSS electronic equipment/systems technician:

Environmental

ATSSs assigned to work with systems in the ENVIRONMENTAL specialty may be required to install, maintain, modify and certify facilities, services and equipment. This includes, but is not limited to: lighted navigational aids systems, engine generators (with or w/o transfer switches), heating ventilating and air conditioning systems and power sources/power conditioning systems. They are also expected to possess knowledge of the national electric code (NEC) and additional responsibilities in the communication, automation, navigational aids, or radar fields may also be required.

Radar

ATSSs assigned to work within the RADAR specialty are associated with the installation, maintenance, modification and certification of surveillance and RADAR systems and services such as: Airport Surveillance Radar, Air Route Surveillance Radar, Air Traffic Control Beacon Indicator, Airport Surface Detection Equipment, Terminal Doppler Weather Radar, etc. Additional responsibilities in the communication, environmental, navigational aids, or automation fields may also be required.

Navigational Aids

ATSSs assigned to work with systems in the NAVIGATIONAL AIDS specialty may be required to install, inspect/evaluate, repair, maintain, modify, and certify various navigational aid related systems and services. These are included, but not limited to: Instrument Landing Systems, Very High Frequency Omnidirectional Range (VORs), Doppler Very High Frequency Omni Directional Range (DVOR), Tactical Aircraft Control and Navigation (TACAN), and Distance Measuring Equipment (DMEs), etc. Additional responsibilities in the environmental, communication, radar or automation fields may also be required.

Communications

ATSSs assigned to work with systems in the COMMUNICATIONS specialty are associated with the installation, maintenance, modification and certification of communications systems and services such as: Motorola, ITT, or General Dynamics radios, Radio Communications Link Repeater, Low Density Radio Communications Link Repeater, Small Tower Voice Switch, Enhanced Terminal Voice Switch, Rapid Deployment Voice Switch, Digital Voice Recorder System, Digital Audio Legal Recorder, etc. Additional responsibilities in the environmental, navigational aids, radar or automation fields may also be required.

Automation

ATSSs assigned to work with systems in the AUTOMATION specialty are associated with the installation, maintenance, modification and certification of automation-related systems and services such as: Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System, Automated Radar Terminal System, Direct Access Radar Channel, En Route Automation Modernization, etc. Additional responsibilities in the communication, environmental, navigational aids, or radar fields may also be required.

Aviation Safety Inspectors (ASI)

FAA employs aviation safety inspectors in a variety of roles, each with a specialized area of responsibility. The main ASI roles are operations, airworthiness, avionics and maintenance safety. The responsibilities and qualifications for each are based whether you will be working with air carriers, general or military aviation. In any of the ASI positions, you will need to have broad knowledge of the aviation industry; understand general principles of aviation safety, and Federal laws, regulations and policies affecting aviation; and have in-depth technical knowledge and skill in aircraft operation and maintenance.

Operations Inspectors

As an air carrier or general aviation operations inspector, you will evaluate airmen, their training programs, equipment and facilities; and investigate incidents/accidents involving both general and air carrier industries which violate Federal Aviation Regulations. Knowledge and skills typically acquired as airmen (pilots, navigators, flight instructors, etc.) are used to develop and administer regulations and safety standards pertaining to the operation of aircraft. Your primary responsibilities will include:

  • Examining airmen for initial certification and continuing competence.
  • Evaluating airmen training programs, equipment and facilities.
  • Evaluating the operational aspect of safety programs for air carriers and similar commercial and general aviation operations with regard to adequacy of facilities, equipment, procedures and overall management.
  • Various other inspections, investigations and advisory duties.

Airworthiness Inspectors

As an airworthiness inspector (avionics or maintenance), you will develop and administer regulations and safety standards pertaining to the airworthiness and maintenance of aircraft and related equipment. You will apply knowledge and skills typically acquired as a repairman of aircraft, aircraft parts or avionics equipment, to the following assignments:

  • Evaluating mechanics and repair facilities for initial certification and continuing adequacy.
  • Evaluating the mechanics' training program.
  • Inspecting aircraft and related equipment for airworthiness.
  • Evaluating the maintenance aspects of air carrier programs and similar commercial operations which may include the adequacy of maintenance facilities, equipment and procedures; competence of employees; adequacy of the program or schedule for periodic maintenance and overhauls; and airworthiness of the aircraft.
  • Various other inspections, investigations and advisory duties.

Avionics Inspectors

As an avionics inspector, you will be responsible for evaluating avionics technicians and applicable training programs and repair facilities. You'll investigate violations involving incidents/accidents violating FAA regulations, including general aviation and air carrier industries, as well as inspect aircraft and all related equipment.

Maintenance Inspectors

Our maintenance inspectors evaluate aviation mechanics, their facilities and training programs as well as inspect aircraft and related equipment for airworthiness. You will investigate incidents/accidents involving both general and air carrier industries which violate Federal Aviation Regulations.

Our Business

FAA regulates and oversees all aspects of our nation's civil aviation. FAA employees work in a variety of occupations across the nation to provide the safest, most efficient aviation technology and airspace in the world.

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