Requirements by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) dictate that Air Traffic Control (ATC) operations must be conducted in the language used by the station on the ground or the English language. The English language must be used upon request.
The primary method of controlling the immediate airport area is visual observation from the airport control tower. Towers are tall, windowed structures on the airport property and air traffic controllers are responsible for the movement of aircraft and vehicles operating not only on the taxiways and runways but also aircraft in the air near the airport (generally 5 to 10 nautical miles depending on airport procedures).
Early Stages of Air Traffic Control
In 1936, Chicago and Cleveland opened airway traffic control centers. These controllers tracked the position of enroute aircraft using blackboards, maps and boat-shaped weights. The enroute controllers had no way to communicate with the pilots but were in communication with the airport radio operators, airline dispatchers and airport controllers.
Most controllers do no actually see the aircraft they are managing. Once an aircraft leaves the terminal airspace, the management is then transferred to an enroute controller who will then manage the aircraft. These controllers are located at Air Route Traffic Control Centers and manage traffic on radar screens at 21 different locations throughout the country. Pictured here is a military air traffic controller in Carrier Air Traffic Control Center.
David J. Hurley Air Traffic Control System Command Center
There is one center that oversees the entire U.S. air traffic control system. The David J. Hurley Air Traffic Control System Command Center in Northern Virginia manages the 5,000 aircraft that are in the sky at any given moment. The center operates 24 hours a day and works with others in the aviation industry to minimize air traffic delays and congestion.
Managing the skies, Air Traffic Control organizes and expedites the flow of air traffic. Here are 5 facts you may not have known about the people and institutions that manage controlled airspace.