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Other denominations

Air traffic controller; Air Controller; Air traffic control specialist (ATCS)


The air-traffic controller is the person responsible for the movement and safety of flying aircraft. They direct air traffic so that aircraft fly without problems, efficiently and, above all, safely in accordance with established air traffic rules and regulations. They mainly work with radio communication equipment (to communicate with the pilot), radar, computers and state-of-the-art technology. It is a fast changing occupation, that implies taking very fast decisions, manage simultaneous incidences and overcome moments of tension.


  • Control tower operator: Ensures suitable separation between aircraft that are landing or taking off, those on airport taxiways and those which flying within view in close proximity. Physically located in the airport control tower.
    Authorize pilots for takeoff or landing or when making any change in height or direction.
    Give instructions and recommendations to pilots (for example related to wind speed, direction, etc.). Report on available air traffic margins (height, separation between planes, etc.)
    Direct air traffic onto the airport landing strip. This includes taxiing, aircraft movements to place it on the runway or to return it to the parking area, as well as all movements of airport vehicles and workers.
    Inspect the condition signaling lights and equipment.
    In the event of emergency, notify firefighters and the rescue team.
  • Route controller: Responsible for the safety of flights in the airspace and en route between airports. Responsible for aircraft from the time they reach cruise altitude after takeoff until they begin their descent (the phase that is the responsibility of approach controllers).
    These tasks take place in air traffic control centers. There are five centers controlling Spanish airspace and parts of the North Atlantic, the Mediterranean and the route towards South America (from the Canary Islands).
    Each center maintains follow-up, using radar and route maps, of all planes crossing the area assigned by air regulations.
    It makes sure that aircraft flying in the same area maintain suitable separation.
    These centers give instructions and recommendations to pilots.
    They also approve flight plans and new routes in the event of any incident.
    They ensure communication coordination with all other control centers, reporting of flight plans, etc.
  • Approach controller: Responsible for the safety of aircraft approaching the airport (within view) and the airspace determined by the route. The position is a link between the tower controller and the route controller. The work takes place in the radar room, the control tower or in one of the air control centers.
    This person controls climbing aircraft until they abandon the proximity of the airport and enter the airspace. Ensure suitable separation between aircraft.
    Control aircraft descent from leaving the airspace until coming into the view of the tower controller.
    Inform pilots about airport conditions such as weather, wind (direction and speed) and the visibility.
    Take charge of any unexpected events. The appearance of unprogramed flights, for example.
    Responsible for planes that are in a holding situation, that is those which can not land because the runways are occupied, locating them correctly and controlling them.
    Also responsible for observing any adverse weather conditions that could affect aircraft movement at airports or on route. Required to detour aircraft away from areas with adverse weather conditions.

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Barcelona Treball (Porta22)
Llacuna, 156-162, 08018 Barcelona

Monday to Friday from 9 to 18 h

Generalitat de Catalunya
Unió Europea FEDER
Unió Europea FSE