Air Traffic Control Essay

Pages: 8 (2614 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 8  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Transportation

Air Traffic Control

According to Craig Freudenrich (2009), the task of air traffic controllers is to ensure safety for commercial and private aircraft. They do this by coordinating takeoff and landing aircraft at airports, while also ensuring safety during bad weather. An air traffic controller is therefore required to ensure the smooth flow of traffic so that minimal delays occur.

In order to make this daunting task manageable, airspace within the United States is divided into 21 zones or centers, which is also each divided into sectors. Each zone contains portions of airspace, called TRACON airspaces, or Terminal Radar Approach Control airspaces. These are about 50 miles in diameter, and contain a number of airports. Each airport has airspace with a five-mile radius.

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The Air Traffic Control system is run by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration, which uses the airspace divisions to guide the system. The ATCSCC (Air Traffic Control System Command Center is the at the head of all traffic control management. Problems such as bad weather, traffic overloads, and faulty runways are also under the jurisdiction of the ATCSCC. There is one Air Rout Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) for each center. The function of this entity is to handle air traffic within each sector except for TRACON and local airspace. The Air Each airport has an Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT), which handles takeoff, landing, and ground traffic. The Flight Service Station (FSS) focuses its service and information on small airports and rural areas, where private pilots are in need of information such as the weather, route, terrain, and flight plan. The FSS also handles emergencies and search-and-rescue missions for aircraft that are missing or overdue.

All these air traffic control divisions work in coordination to ensure the safety of aircraft that share American airspace. Each operates the craft moving through its airspace at any given time.


Essay on Air Traffic Control Assignment

The FAA's Air Traffic Staffing Plan (Blakey, 2004) appears to be sound in terms of both cost efficiency and employee benefits. There are only two elements about the plan that I find somewhat bothersome. These include the reduction of sick leave, and the reduction of training time for Terminal and En Route personnel.

I understand that personnel have shown a tendency towards abusing their sick leave allowance. I also understand the need to address these abuses in a targeted and efficient manner. I am not suggesting that these abuses should be ignored or go unpunished. What I fail to understand is the 8% reduction in sick leave. I do not believe that such a reduction will prevent abuse. The abuse issue should be curbed by means such as investigation and the use of medical certificates or other proof of the illness in question.

Management should also keep in mind that personnel are subject to very high levels of stress due to the ATC profession. This necessarily will result in occasional illness. Reducing sick leave by as much as 8% will have a detrimental effect upon the way in which personnel experience their work, and contribute both to stress and to related illnesses. I therefore do not believe that this is the optimal way to handle sick leave abuse.

Furthermore, the reduction of training times is a worrying issue to me. Training for Terminal personnel is reduced from 2-3 years to a maximum of 2 years, while En Route personnel receive training for a maximum of 3 years, which is reduced from 3-5 years. It should be recognized that air traffic control is a very complicated and technical profession. Training is one area in which I do not believe that costs should be reduced. Trainees need all the attention they can receive in order to ensure that they make a success of the profession. Indeed, if there is any alteration of training times, I believe that these should be increased rather than reduced. Training is a vital part of air traffic control, and should not be reduced for any reason.


Aircraft separation criteria are extremely important to maintain the safety of aircraft and passengers. The current vertical separation minimum is 1,000 feet, dependent upon some form of horizontal separation. In heights above 29,000 feet, aircraft should not be closer than 2,000 feet. Horizontal separation criteria exist when any two aircraft are horizontally closer to each other than the vertical separation minimum. In anticipation of an increase of aircraft in American airspace, it may be necessary to revise the vertical and horizontal separation requirements for aircraft.

In order to accomplish this, procedural, lateral, and longitudinal separation procedures can be considered. Procedural separation is based upon the position of aircraft according to pilot reports over the radio. When two aircraft are not vertically separated, procedural separation minima are provided by the air traffic controller, generally with radar assistance.

Lateral separation is generally derived from the position of the aircraft as determined visually, from dead reckoning, interval navigation sources, or radio navigation aids. With beacons, aircraft are required to be a certain distance from the beacon, as measured b time or DME, while the track to or from this beacon is also subject to minimum angle. Lateral separation can also be determined by the geography of routes.

Longitudinal separation is applicable when aircraft are not laterally separated and are following the same route. This is based upon time or distance, and measured by DME. Generally, this is subject to the 15 minute rule, which determines that no two aircraft on the same route should be within 15 minutes of each other.

Minimum separation criteria can therefore be determined in various ways, some of which are flexible according to the way in which they are determined. To handle an increase in aircraft traffic, these different ways can be combined while still maintaining safe separation distances.


CPDLC has several advantages over more traditional ATC systems. Traditional systems tend to entail airport congestion, which affects airspace and the routes currently used. Finite capacity assigned to TRACON airspace can allow a model to simulate the potential backups created in this way. This simulation in turn provides air traffic controllers with the capacity to assign airspace optimally according to the current route situation.

The problem is however that it is difficult to simulate capacity, as there is no specific definition of what precisely that capacity should be. A further issue is that most modelers tend to decouple airport constraints, which makes accuracy difficult to maintain.

A further issue with traditional systems is that severe weather conditions increases areas in which demand exceeds capacity. Traditional models do not allow for the mitigation of such situation, further resulting in delays at airports and congestion of air traffic. With the availability of more capacity, weather need not be an issue.

Queue-based models furthermore do not apply efficiency penalties when demand is lower than capacity. The practical situation is not addressed: conflict resolution and descent/ascent profiles vary in terms of sector load.

CPDLC has several advantages over the traditional models of communication. It for example allows digital text messaging within a wider range among air traffic controllers and pilots. Voice messages in terms of initial communications, transfer of communications, and altimeter settings are then replaced by digital messaging. The benefits of this is that there is reduced voice channel occupancy, which is important in terms of communicating fast and efficiently. Furthermore, the greater availability of communications result in fewer delays, more capacity, and more efficiency during aircraft communications. The workload and stress factor for air traffic controllers is also decreased, while sector capacity increases.


There are obvious advantages to using the space-based GPS system for air traffic control rather than the ground-based system that has been used to date. The FAA seems to have finally reached an understanding that GPS is in fact better, and that it can curb the severe delays of aircraft that has steadily become worse since the beginning of the millennium. According to Barbara S. Peterson (2007), the FAA had been using Alaska to test GPS technologies as applicable to the ATC system.

The overhaul to Next Generation GPS is indeed, long overdue, according to Peterson. She also cites Robert Sturgell, the FAA's deputy administrator, in acknowledging that the entire ATC system is in danger of collapse if it is not upgraded soon.

The current system functions on the basis of a plane being guided to its destination via a series of radar connections. The control tower at the departure airport begins the radar handoff, with the signal sent through one or more of 22 regional and route control centers, ending with the destination airport's tower. The problem with this system is that it can take up to 36 seconds for an accurate reading of a craft's position to emerge. This results in extensive safety distances, both horizontally, vertically, and upon landing approach, which entails the inefficient use of airports and airspace.

Probably the most significant reason why the FAA has decided to upgrade the system only now is because of the anticipated increase in aircraft… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Air Traffic Control" Essay in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Air Traffic Control.  (2009, August 30).  Retrieved January 24, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Air Traffic Control."  30 August 2009.  Web.  24 January 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Air Traffic Control."  August 30, 2009.  Accessed January 24, 2021.