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Controlling air traffic

education Updated: Sep 22, 2011 10:56 IST

Hindustan Times
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The lowdown
Air traffic control officers (ATCOs) guide aircraft for safe take-off, landing and en route navigation. They assist not only flights taking off from and landing in India, but also those flights — between other countries — which fly over Indian airspace. They do so by visual observation from the ATC tower’s windows and through radar. During peak hours at midnight at Delhi’s international airport, the busiest in India, an ATCO might have to handle 200-300 planes overflying the capital’s airspace. ATCOs are employed by Airports Authority of India (AAI)

Clock Work
ATCOs have shifts (1.30pm to 7.30pm), (7.30am to 1.30pm), (7.30pm to 7.30am) on the third day - at Delhi’s international airport. The shift cycle repeats every fourth day. The average morning shift of an ATCO:
7.15am: (15-minute overlap between two shifts). Relieve the controller, finishing night duty and take briefing from him. Take over the channel
7.30am: Understand the traffic position. Give push-back instructions or start-up clearances, depending upon the situation. Guide aircraft to holding point
8.45am: Brief the other controller on the same shift
9am: Go to the restroom/ training session
10.30am-12pm: Resume work
1.15pm: Brief person taking over the shift
1.30pm: Shift over, time to pack up and go home

The payoff
As a junior executive it is Rs 16,400 to Rs 40,500 a month plus allowances, a rating allowance and a stress allowance which can range from Rs 6,000 to Rs 24,000. As an executive director, the salary is Rs 62,000 to Rs 80,000 a month

Skills/Traits
.
Logical thinking
. Communication skills
. Ability to make decisions at jet speed and focus on work for hours at a stretch

Getting there
After science in Class 12, an engineering degree in electronics, telecommunication, radio engineering, or electrical with first class.Or, a master’s in electronics or any discipline with electronics, telecom, radio physics, as specialisation subjects. Clear the Airports Authority of India’s written test, followed by a voice test, personal interview and a medical examination. After which, finalists are sent for training at Civil Aviation Training College, Allahabad and in Hyderabad

Institutes and URLs
.
Civil Aviation Training College, Allahabad. Finalists are sent to Hyderabad, too (for area control centre training)

Pros and cons
.
You make huge machines and people fly safely
. A high responsibility job hundreds and thousands of lives are virtually in your hands