In the RAF
'As an Air Traffic Controller my role is to provide the safe and expeditious flow of Air Traffic. By controlling Air Systems departing, arriving and transiting both visually and using radar I ensure the safety of all aircraft under my control.
By providing precision and non-precision approaches in adverse weather conditions, this assures the safety of Air Systems arriving at any airfield.
In the event of any incident on the airfield, I co-ordinate and dispatch the airfield emergency services ensuring a prompt and timely response.'
A typical day controlling could start in any one of the controlling positions.
As Ground Controller I confirm the number of personnel on board and ensure the aircraft taxis safely to the correct runway, during which time I notify the radar controller with departure profiles.
As the Aerodrome Controller it is my job to ensure the runway is available and each aircraft is kept informed of the position of other aircraft flying in the visual circuit and allowing the safe usage of the runway.
When safely airborne the aircraft is passed to the Departures Controller, who identifies it on radar and provides information on any aircraft in the vicinity.
When the aircraft is ready to recover to the aerodrome, the Approach Controller provides information on current weather and runway in use and de-conflicts the aircraft with other aircraft returning to base.
In poor weather or for training purposes, the aircraft may elect to perform a radar recovery. In this case the Director Control Position is responsible for the sequencing of multiple aircraft to ensure the correct spacing for handover to the talkdown controller. The Talkdown controller utilises Precision Approach Radar to provide accurate information of the aircraft’s heading and altitude, and “talks” the aircrew safely onto the runway.
As a Royal Air Force controller I am qualified in all these disciplines. What I love about my job is that no two days are the same. Weather, the prevailing Air Traffic “picture” and the number of aircraft operating at any one time ensures a varied, challenging but ultimately rewarding day. I cannot think of any other job where its dynamic, ever changing nature could be so engaging and satisfying.
Janine, Air Traffic Controller
Recruit & Non-Commissioned Aircrew Initial Training
As a direct entrant joining the Royal Air Force at the rank of Sergeant (rank attained upon completion of Air Traffic Control training), your career will start with a 10-week Basic Recruit Training Course (BRTC) at RAF Halton in Buckinghamshire. The course is designed to help you adjust to a military environment. As well as fitness and military training, you will also learn about the RAF lifestyle.
Following Recruit Training, you will complete the Non-Commissioned Aircrew Initial Training Course (NCAITC) at the RAF College Cranwell in Lincolnshire. This 10-week course is designed to develop your leadership and management skills and includes fitness development, military training and academic study as well as practical outdoor leadership challenges. You can find out details of the NCAITC Course here.
After the NCAITC, 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.
Following successful completion of your specialist training, your first tour will last approximately 2-3 years and will be at one of the RAFs airfields in the UK, in Cyprus, or, following additional training, at the Air Traffic Control Centre at Swanwick. You will then consolidate your specialist training and develop post-graduate skills making you Combat Ready and ready to deploy on military operations anywhere in the world.
Your Career Prospects
You will join the RAF as an airman under an initial 12 year engagement. Following 4 years service, you will be eligible to apply for an extension of service to complete a pension earning engagement of 20 years service or age 40, whichever is the later, during this time.
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 the Air Traffic Control Centre.
You may also be selected for advancement to intermediate management roles, responsible for supervising teams of specialists. Throughout your career, you should expect operational deployments (generally of up to but not limited to 6 months duration) to a range of locations worldwide, together with ad-hoc shorter detachments to such locations as Cyprus, Lithuania, Gibraltar, Canada, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and the US. The RAF also has a variety of exchange opportunities.
As a SNCO Air Traffic Controller, you will obtain plenty of transferable skills including advanced leadership (CMI Accredited), change and project management and the opportunity for further academic development. Opportunities for closer alignment to the civilian air traffic control licences are being continually assessed.
Visit to an RAF Unit
Opportunities exist to visit an RAF unit where you will be able to meet serving SNCO Air Traffic Controllers and learn more about the specialisation and the various roles you could find yourself employed in. These visits are called Realistic Job Previews, for which on-site accommodation and funding is available. However, places are unavoidably limited and you are therefore strongly encouraged to book early through the RAF staff at the various Armed Forces Careers Offices.
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) grades at Grade 5, including English Language and Mathematics.
- 17.5-40 (Must enter phase one training by 41st birthday)
To join the RAF you will also need to meet fitness, health, nationality, residency, and other criteria detailed below.