Air Traffic Controllers

Air Traffic Controllers

Every day, hundreds of military airplanes and helicopters take off and land all over the world. Their movements are closely controlled in order to prevent accidents. Air traffic controllers direct the movement of aircraft into and out of military airfields. They track aircraft by radar and give voice instructions by radio.

Job Details:

What They Do:

Air traffic controllers in the military perform some or all of the following duties:
  • Operate radio equipment to issue takeoff, flight, and landing instructions
  • Relay weather reports, airfield conditions, and safety information to pilots
  • Use radar equipment to track aircraft in flight
  • Plot airplane locations on charts and maps
  • Compute speed, direction, and altitude of aircraft

Training Provided:

Job training consists of 7 to 13 weeks of classroom instruction. Training length varies depending on specialty. Additional training occurs on the job. Aircraft carrier air traffic controllers receive specialized training. Course content typically includes:
  • Air traffic control fundamentals
  • Visual and instrument flight procedures
  • Radar and other landing approach procedures
  • Communication procedures

Work Environment:

Air traffic controllers work in land-based and shipboard control centers.

Special Requirements:

Certification by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) normally must be obtained during training.


The services have about 7,000 air traffic controllers. Each year, they need new controllers due to changes in personnel and the demands of the field. After job training, new controllers normally perform duties such as ground control or work in airfields with light air traffic. With experience, they perform more difficult controller duties. In time, they may become supervisors of other controllers.