In the RAF
‘Air Traffic Control Officers can be sent anywhere, which is one of the attractions of the job for me. You also have variety – fast jets, multi-engine aircraft, helicopters – you’re constantly controlling a variety of aircraft. In civilian air traffic it’s all planned and timed, but we get multiple approaches and you never know from day to day who’s going to fly in or from where.’
‘I work in the air traffic control tower. Working as a team is really important and everybody relies on one another. You also need to be able to absorb a lot of information and be flexible enough to keep updating and changing your plans as situations develop.
In the RAF, great opportunities can come along and you’ve just got to grab them. Recently I went to Jordan in a Hercules. We landed in the desert to pick up personnel on an exercise out there, and then we turned round and came back. That’s what it’s all about – you’ve got to make the most of your opportunities.’
Emma, Air Traffic Control Officer
Like all our officers, you will begin your RAF career with Initial Officer Training (IOT) at the RAF College Cranwell in Lincolnshire. You will follow a challenging 24-week course designed to develop your leadership and management skills. The course includes fitness development, military training and academic study as well as practical outdoor leadership challenges. You can find out more information about IOT in this publication.
After the IOT you will complete a 22-week specialist Air Traffic Control training course at RAF Shawbury, Shropshire. Apart from Air Traffic Controller Training, the course involves: Force Development at FDTC Fairbourne or FDTC Grantown-on-Spey, Beliefs, Values, Protocol (BVP) sessions with the Stn Padre, Air Experience Flying and a visit to Liverpool Airport.
During your first tour you will find yourself working at either an Air Traffic Control Tower on a RAF base or at an Air Traffic Control Centre, working alongside your civilian counterparts.
Your Career Prospects
You will join the RAF on an Initial Commission of 12 years and may be selected to serve on a pension earning commission of 20 years service or age 40, whichever is the later, during this time. Promotion to the rank of Flight Lieutenant is on a time served/satisfactory service basis after 3½ years from completing IOT. Further promotion to Squadron Leader and above is by competitive selection.
You will conduct additional training to develop your professional skills during each tour of duty and complete a further 6-week course in Area Radar Control before working at an Air Traffic Control Centre. You will also have the opportunity to undertake additional leadership and management training.
As an Air Traffic Control Officer in the RAF you will have many of the opportunities and career prospects of your civilian counterparts with the chance to work around the world and gain a unique experience of Air Traffic Control.
Visit to RAF Shawbury
If you would like to gain a first-hand insight into the training that you will undertake at the Central Air Traffic Control School (CATCS) at RAF Shawbury as well as learn more about the various roles of an Air Traffic Control Officer, opportunities exist to visit the School. These are called Realistic Job Prospect Visits and allow you to observe elements of the training course and meet serving ATC Officers with the aim of offering you a greater appreciation of work and life in the RAF and in the Air Traffic Control branch as well as the specialist training involved for this role. Attending one of these visits would also help you to increase your general knowledge and understanding of the RAF.
Dependant on whether you have made a formal application to the RAF for this role and your status within the recruitment process, it may be necessary for you to fund the visit yourself (e.g. travel costs). Further details on these visits, including dates and funding information, will be available through your nearest Armed Forces Careers Office (AFCO). However, availability of these visits and the number of places on each of them are unavoidably limited and therefore, if you are seriously interested in this opportunity, you are strongly encouraged to talk to the RAF staff at your local AFCO early to avoid possible disappointment.
You will need a minimum of 5 GCSEs (or acceptable equivalents) at a minimum of Grade C (Grade 4 to 5 with effect from Aug 17), including English Language, and Mathematics or 5 Scottish Certificate of Education (SCE) Standard Grades at a minimum of Grade 2, including English Language and Mathematics or 5 Scottish National Equivalent (SNE) at a minimum of Grade 5 including English Language and Mathematics.
In addition, you need at least 2 A2 Levels / 3 Highers at Grade C or above (excluding General Studies or Critical Thinking) which must total a minimum of 64 UCAS points.
Alternatively, if you hold a UK degree at Grade 2:2 or higher (or acceptable alternative) you only need Mathematics and English Language GCSEs at a minimum of C (Grade 4 to 5 with effect from Aug 17) or Mathematics and English Language SCE Standard Grades of 2 or SNE Grade 5 for both.
- 17.5-40 (Must have entered IOT before 41st birthday)
To join the RAF you will also need to meet fitness, health, nationality, residency, and other criteria detailed below.