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Interesting Things About The Air Traffic Control Only Few People Know

Interesting Things About The Air Traffic Control Only Few People Know

One of the most intense jobs on the planet is for none other than the Air traffic controllers as they have to make sure that the airplanes filled with people flying at thousands of feet above the ground level reach their respective airports safely and in an efficient manner.

Airplane Controller

Even the movies have picked up on the importance of these Air traffic controllers as they depicted these workers helping the pilots make it safely to the airports in times of perils. Still, there is a lot of Air traffic control facts that these movies tend to get wrong.

For our readers today, we have gathered a bunch of amazing things you did not know about the Air traffic control.

They cannot track the airplanes with GPS


Global Positioning System or also more commonly known as the GPS System is now available in small gadget form that allows millions of people across the world to navigate through the busy roads. However, you might not have known that Air traffic controls are not able to track the airplanes with the help of these GPS Systems.

While an airplane carrying hundreds of passengers with their GPS enabled smartphones, the airplane itself is not a GPS enabled one. In order to track the aircraft by an Air traffic control tower, these airplanes are equipped with a Point-to-point ground-based radar system.

Air Traffic Control still uses the technology that is 40 years old

Air Traffic Control

The Air traffic controls sue a technology named “Host” which is nearly 40 years old. The reason that it is still being sued is that the change is very difficult for the FAA but still an upgrade for the Host is in making by the name NextGen. Minor changes have been implemented in the Air traffic controls but still, the main thing is riddled with numerous delays, bugs, and other issues.

Control Systems of Air Traffic Control can be hacked with a 450 dollars portable transmitter

portable transmitter

How scary it would be to hear that the 40 years old technology that is currently being sued by the Air traffic controllers can easily be hacked with a simple 450 dollars worth of a portable transmitter that anyone can buy from internet? Well, the thing is that this little fact is true. Back in April of 2014, a man tried to divert an airplane from the Regan International Airport but the pilot noted the voice to be of an unknown man.  In the UK back in 2015, nearly 25 such attempts were made. Still, we do not recommend you to go on buying the transmitter and hacking the Air traffic controls as the hacking attempt is punishable by 5 years of imprisonment in a jail in the US.

In the future, Air Traffic Controls might be hundreds of miles away from airports

 Air Traffic Controls

Many of the world airports are now trying a new trend and this is the remote air control towers. This will place the Air traffic control towers hundreds of miles away from the airports. The Air traffic controllers will be able to perform their job still as efficiently as they do it with the help of HD cameras, monitors and sensors. The reported technology is so sensitive in its working that it is able to even detect a small creature like a frog on a runway.

You need an Associate Degree to become an Air Traffic Controller

Associate Degree to become an Air Traffic Controller

While becoming an Air traffic controller is not an easy thing, it still does not require a person to have an Advanced Degree. There are nearly 30 schools which give out the FAA Approved Associate Degree for the Air traffic controller’s job.

Degree Holder

Another option to become the Air traffic controller is to first hired by the Air Force and then get hired by FAA directly through their Air traffic controller academy located in Oklahoma City.

To minimize the distractions towers of Air Traffic Control have slanted windows


Air traffic control towers are visible at any airport or you can Google their pictures on the internet.  One thing you will see common in these towers is that they all have the same tinted and slanted windows. The thing is that these are built for the sake of the Air traffic controllers. These windows are manufactured to make them able to deflect any reflection coming from the smartphones or the monitors towards the ceiling of the tower. By doing this, the risk for mistaking this light like an aircraft is reduced greatly.

FAA only accepts new Air Traffic Controllers that are 30 years old or less

 Air Traffic Controllers Training

Other than the fact that you are in the army, you cannot get a job as an Air traffic controller if you above the age of 30 years old. The FAA only approves the person who is at a maximum of 30 years old age to start at their academy. FAA has also some other following stipulations if you want to join the academy.

  • Being a US citizen
  • Passing a medical exam
  • Passing a Security investigation

Nearly 11,345 Air Traffic Controllers were fired by President Reagan in 1981


Back on August 3rd, 1981 the PATCO (Professional Air Traffic Controller Organization) Union launched a strike which unfortunately blew up in their own face. The union had the usual demands like any other unions; shorter workweek, better working environment, and better pay.


The thing was that this strike occurred during the Presidential reign of Ronald Regan and he gave these union members a total of 48 hours to get back to work or they would get fired. The Union stayed strong in this strike, so did the President in his threat. He not only fired 11345 Air traffic controllers but also banned them for life from the Federal Service.

In case radars fail, Air Traffic Controllers use lights

Airplane Transmitter

Radios do not work well always and so in order to tackle this major problem, Air traffic controllers have come with a backup plan which involves lights. Air traffic controllers use Signal lamps which emit 3 following colors.

  • Red
  • Green
  • White


Each of these lights has its own message that is relayed to the pilot like the Green color means that the aircraft is cleared for making the landing.

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