I am an Air Traffic Controller working at one of the top 8 busiest UK airports by runway movements per year. I've found that not many people really understand what we do or how we do it, and infact a good portion of people dont even know we exist.

If there's anything you ever wanted to know or ask, AMA!

For obvious reasons as I'm still in the job, I wont be risking my career by revealing sensitive company information, but otherwise feel free.

My Proof: http://i.imgur.com/AsyNRww.jpg

For obvious reasons I've removed my photo, signature, name, company I work for and the pass serial number.

EDIT: I didnt realise this would be so popular. Please be patient everyone, Im trying to get through your posts. If I dont reply, please check other replies as I have probably already answered somewhere.

2nd EDIT: A few FAQ's:

  • No its not like Breaking Bad - we couldnt do that
  • Salary starts at £12k a year to train, top of pay scale of experienced controllers is like £110k+
  • I dont really have any tips for how to succeed and I couldnt tell you anyway I'm afraid. All publically available knowledge is available on wikipedia and forums though.
  • No, I do not know where MH370 is.

Please feel free to check the responses. I had no idea how many replies I would get, thanks for your time in reading. Most questions have been answered in there somewhere. Any further questions feel free to inbox me.

Happy flying!

EDIT 3:

I have been made aware that some information I provided regarding a video of the A-SMGCS and voice overlay was not in fact an official release. I'm told it was infact supplied to the crew who made their own decision to upload it. The video is not owned by me nor am I responsible for it. The video is still available to view on YouTube if you search for it, and my sincerest apologies for any offence caused. My view that the controller that day was and is a credit to the profession remains.

Comments: 2073 • Responses: 82  • Date: 

jay_moo628 karma

What really happened on 12th Dec 2014? My trip was delayed by a day.

munkey_boi474 karma

I cant remember exactly what happened on that day. Was that when a large amount of flights got delayed etc due to the problem at the en-route centre in Swanwick?

jay_moo277 karma

That's the one!

munkey_boi552 karma

Basically I know the same as the press releases. A problem came up in a line of code in one of the programs the en-route controllers use to help them manage more traffic than they could do manually. Controllers are always trying to give the airlines the most efficient routings, continuous climbs to cruising level etc. From what I understand the program had an error and restarted. In order to keep things safe, flow management was implemented. Thats designed to reduce the load of a sector to prevent bunching of aircraft or there just being too many to handle. Normally with all the management programs running, controllers are able to handle a huge amount of traffic based on predictions about its path, and identify conflictions. When those programs dont work, the controller has to make manual judgements and spend more time checking them for safety, hence the safest place for aircraft that havent yet departed is still on the ground. Granted it did cause a lot of delays, especially at airports like Heathrow. Heathrow operates at like 99.5% capacity, so those delays have knock on effects meaning some flights had no option but to be cancelled.

yore_364 karma

I am a chinese girl. And i am not really know what things does an Air Traffic Controller supposed to do?

munkey_boi252 karma

Air Traffic Controllers safely manage traffic throughout the airspace at upper levels and around airports. I'm a tower controller, so my role is to ensure aircraft land and depart safely, move around the airport safely on the ground and make sure that any aircraft transiting through my airport's airspace are separated from the other aircraft using it. Approach controller's job is to guide aircraft in from about 50 miles out and use radar to guide them onto the runway. En-route controllers separate the traffic at higher levels while in the cruise on imaginary roads in the sky.

IronMew244 karma

Would you share the most interesting thing that happened to you on the job? And what about the scariest?

munkey_boi483 karma

Believe it or not, working in a control tower is pretty mundane. Once you get over the excitement of planes being everywhere you look, its just like any other job :')

You'd be surprised how many people that live near airports phone directly through to the controllers to complain about the noise that arriving and departing aircraft make. I didnt build the airport where it is, and in all likelyhood the airport has been there longer than they have! I find the most interesting times to be when we get cockpit crews come to visit us. Its really vital that we maintain a good understanding of each other's thought processes. I dont want to be issuing instructions to a crew at a particularly intense phase of flight to prevent from distracting them, but equally they might want to know why we issue an instruction in a certain way, what the thought processes are behind it etc.

Scariest is without a "piggy-back go-around". Thats where one aircraft is coming down final approach to land, but ahead of it an aircraft is lined up to depart. As long as we can see aircraft from the window we can separate them visually, as opposed to radar controllers who usually have to provide 3 or 5 miles or 1000ft between aircraft. Sometimes we'll issue a take-off clearance with plenty of time to spare, but the air crew will get an indication in the cockpit and sit for a few moments to let it settle before rolling. Sometimes this can make it too tight to give a landing clearance to the aircraft behind (as you can only legally land something once the departing aircraft has lifted from the runway) and the landing aircraft carries out a missed approach. In this scenario you have one aircraft on climb out with another aircraft slightly above and behind it also climbing out. In that situation we'll often turn one by 90 degrees and let the other climb straight ahead so we get plenty of distance between them before sorting it out.

Drummond1036 karma

On a typically large runway can you not land two light weight class aircraft on the same runway at the same time as in one is half way down but hasn't exited on the taxiway yet while the other lands behind it safely? I've seen this done in other countries

munkey_boi78 karma

Yeah thats referred to as a "land after" in the UK. In the US i believe they use anticipated separation, so when something checks in with the tower they clear it to land, anticipating the runway to be clear by the time it gets there. In the UK we cant do that, but what we can do is allow an aircraft to land when the previously landed aircraft hasnt yet vacated as long as we adhere to a strict set of rules.

rodinj191 karma

Ever received a mayday?

munkey_boi426 karma

Quite a few - best thing you can do is stay calm, let the pilot fly the plane and assist in any way you can. Im sat in a nice warm tower, I'm not going to be dead if it goes wrong. The pilot doesnt want me constantly chatting in their ear when they need to concentrate.

ephemeraj155 karma

What's your opinion about what must have happened to MH370?

munkey_boi337 karma

Weird one. Completely unprecedented. Undoubtedly the transponder was disabled from inside the cockpit in an area of known poor primary surveillance radar cover. The person that did it certainly knew the local geography, the radar cover, and how to fly a 777. As to who or why, I'm not sure we'll ever know.

apriZea147 karma

Ever had problems understanding a cockpit crew from non-english speaking countries?

You know, I imagine they all have to be very well trained in english but I'm just curious if something like that ever occurs..

munkey_boi310 karma

In order to be a controller ICAO (our governing body) requires that you are at least a level 4 at english, level 6 being native speaker. But for pilots only a level 3 is required. Sometimes it can be difficult, but in those situations its important we only use standard phraseology and speak slowly and clearly. Honestly though, ive had more issues with aircraft that have shit radios that pilots who's first language isnt English.

Ocet35814 karma

But for pilots only a level 3 is required.

Are you sure it's right? I had to get 4 to start my CPL training and so did my brother who flies A320 now. Also ICAO lists level 4 as operational with 3 being pre-operational for both ATCO and pilots.

aviator10410 karma

Level 4 is the minimum for pilots. With Level 4 the pilot must prove English competency again within the next 3 years.

munkey_boi7 karma

You could well be right.

duck_man123105 karma

what did they have you do when all air traffic was grounded because of the volcanic ash in 2010?

munkey_boi316 karma

Go to work and read the paper. We had to be there incase the ash cleared, so I drank lots of coffee, watched a lot of daytime TV and gave my mates some shit :)

Trixsterxx103 karma

Are disaster movies pretty accurate when they show air traffic control?

Does the rainy weather make it difficult everyday to land planes?

If your cut off from the plane in an emergency like the dissapearing flights what do you have to do and does it effect everything else?

Also thanks for doing this really interesting stuff!

munkey_boi239 karma

I'm yet to see a disaster movie that doesnt have air traffic controllers frantically grabbing for binoculars and being dramatic. If you went to a control tower you'd probably notice that its pretty quiet, un-dramatic, and you'll often hear controllers discussing the football scores or what they're having for dinner, etc in between transmissions. Don't get me wrong, controllers always put the Air Traffic first, and always concentrate. But we're human too and we like to have a chat at work just like everyone else!

Rain doesnt normally affect the larger commercial aircraft, unless its exceptionally heavy. Sometimes pilots will ask for "weather avoidance" because some clouds have such strong up and downdraughts inside them that they could damage the aircraft. Generally though, normal rain doesnt make the slightest bit of difference. The aircraft generally follow the ILS down to the runway, which is a pair of radio waves transmitted horizontally and vertically providing a localiser and a glidepath. Thats how aircraft are able to land in thick fog etc.

ColonelButterz91 karma

[deleted]

munkey_boi170 karma

I genuinely dont find it that stressful. I think a lot of it depends on what type of person you are. Without doubt it is an incredibly high pressure job, but stress is just one possible way of dealing with the pressure. I tend to find you have to have a level head and be calm. I often say that getting frustrated or angry at a situation doesnt help because you still have the situation to deal with and you've wasted valuable time stressing.

Useful qualities and skills are good short term memory, long term memory, being able to memorise complex rules and apply them quickly, be flexible, logical. Air Traffic is just problem solving, being able to come up with a resolution and move on without the need to wait for the resolution to take effect in order to check it is key. You have to trust yourself.

Mayo07J51 karma

I've heard from many of my ATC friends and professors that stress is the biggest lie controllers tell to get higher pay.

munkey_boi130 karma

I dont know about that, but I'm certainly not going to campaign for my pay to go down ;-)

iamfromaustria80 karma

did you ever experience any incident involving a private uas like a rc-quadcopter or something similar?

munkey_boi127 karma

Not personally but unfortunately that sort of incident is becoming more common. I remember reading about an aircraft approaching Heathrow and the pilot filed a report to say that some sort of unmanned aircraft passed about 20ft under his wing. Thats about as close as it gets to not hitting it and is extremely dangerous. I do fear it's only a matter of time until some idiot crashes one into an airliner. Fortunately commercial jets are reasonably sturdy and have multiple engines for a reason. I'd hope that if it did happen the crew could make it down safely.

Jay931328 karma

I was going to ask the same question as /u/iamfromaustria. As a follow up, do you think the government will create sweeping legislation that will affect the rc community as a whole, or just legislation that will help prevent these specific situations?

munkey_boi54 karma

Couldn't possibly say. The problem is it's pretty difficult to enforce, and its such a problem because they're so small they dont paint on our radars.

I_smell_awesome77 karma

What's your favorite kind of soup?

munkey_boi141 karma

Pretty boring really - Tomato + Basil :D

YellowB61 karma

What is your protocol when dealing with UFOs?

munkey_boi109 karma

Avoid unknown aircraft by a bigger safety margin. Dont depart aircraft towards it etc

SpeshellED59 karma

Do you have hot stews trying to do you ?

munkey_boi86 karma

I'm not really sure what you're asking :-/

munkey_boi177 karma

OHHHH wait... like stewardesses. No, we're just the faceless voice on the radio. Plus you should see some of them in the morning :')

callumirvine51 karma

So you don't do phone sex with them?

munkey_boi444 karma

Sadly not, Im too busy having ACTUAL sex.

EvolveUK114 karma

The answer everyone on reddit didn't want to see.

987ffk140 karma

Bet it's Jenny!

balugabe103 karma

We found Zack.

LickableLemon25 karma

[deleted]

munkey_boi64 karma

its always fucking Zack

jtreebo55 karma

[deleted]

munkey_boi43 karma

I've still got a full head, dont think its too different to any normal office environment

CanuckDiver8453 karma

Have you ever heard of Boston John, a tower controller at Boston Logan who's pretty comical on the radio? Are there any policies you know of that discourage that kind of lighthearted radio banter?

munkey_boi66 karma

Yeah I've heard some recording of him, he's a funny guy. We're encouraged to be professional at all times, but we're just human, sometimes you cant help but make a witty comment!

oednj49 karma

Do all the crews from Different countries have to speak the native language of the tower or are there multi-lingual controllers?

Which countries crew are the nicest over the radio?

Are the Americans more pushy or is it always the Germans?

munkey_boi105 karma

ATC is conducted worldwide in English. In some countries however, like in France, French crews will speak to the controllers in French, but everyone else will speak English. I tend to find Scandinavian crews the most friendly, but generally all crews are pretty nice. Occasionally you do get people having a bad day, occasionally I have a bad day. Its swings and roundabouts! I dont find either to be pushy, but some airlines can be more pushy than others. I wont go slagging them off though :)

Rannasha40 karma

Greetings from capacity management at LSGG!

ATCOs often give pilot direct routings or other deviations from the filed flightplan, presumably in order to help the pilot save time. However, these flightplan deviations can have an adverse effect on the workload of ATCOs downstream. Especially when flow management procedures are in place and the flow of traffic is regulated to spread out entries into an overloaded sector, flights not adhering to their flightplan can greatly reduce the effectiveness of the flow management measures.

So my question then is: When giving direct routings to pilots, are ATCOs aware of the potential negative effects this may have on sector loads elsewhere in the network? How important do you consider flightplan adherence is compared to accomodating pilots by granting requests that deviate from the flightplan?

munkey_boi38 karma

This really isnt my speciality as a tower controller, but I'll give it my best shot with background knowledge!

As far as I'm concerned, once a pilot asks for a direct routing, thats satisfaction enough that from a company point of view they're happy to not adhere to the flight plan. Also, the pilot when asking it should probably be aware that getting a short-cut somewhere could well mean no net gain overall as there could just be added holding further along the route.

A controller could give a direct routing across his/her own sector rather than following waypoints in order to save track miles without having to speak to anyone else. In order to get a direct routing that would cross sector boundaries, the controller working the aircraft would have to coordinate with the next sector to see if they're happy to accept the flight off-route. They will in turn coordinate further down the route. With CTOT times giving a window of CTOT -5 to CTOT +10 mins, as you can appreciate, 15 minutes is a huge distance at cruising speed, and so controllers only ever really work from estimates in order to plan what they will do with traffic, confirming the plan when the real time traffic paints on radar.

Hope that wasnt too much waffle and helped a little!

iil38 karma

My friend, here in the US went to school for this, but failed the exam. Is it true that if you fail once, you can never try again, or is he lying?

munkey_boi48 karma

It's hard to say what the rules are in the US. I know that in Europe, one of the tests is called the FEAST test (feel free to check it out on wikipedia). From what I remember, most European countries will only allow you to take it once but I think in the UK you're allowed 3 attempts at it. Its quite possible he could be telling you the truth.

veertamizhan37 karma

what % of traffic is from India? and which is your favourite airline?

munkey_boi94 karma

Percentage wise I'm unsure. I don't know too much about at the upper levels (eg transit traffic to the US etc) and a lot of it is airport dependent. I would say Heathrow probably has the highest level of traffic from India in the UK.

To fly in from a customer point of view I really enjoy British Airways and Virgin Atlantic for intercontinental flights, trans-European flights Easyjet and Norwegian are pretty good. Domestically in the UK, I'm a big fan of Flybe.

From a controllers point of view, the scandinavian airlines are pretty good. They're always laid back, easy going, never pushy and will do pretty much anything you ask them to.

krelack35 karma

How much do you sleep?

munkey_boi173 karma

Absolutely loads. I love my bed and dislike being removed from it. I often pull this face: >8-|

Aye_Yer_Ma30 karma

Do you think that the quick turn around time for the budget airlines (eg. Ryanair) poses any danger for the passengers? For example rushed maintenance checks because of a tight schedule?

munkey_boi50 karma

Across Europe as a whole, maintainence schedules are very strict. Ryanair doesnt want to have an incident the same as BA dont, as its bad for business. They probably want aircraft to have minimal downtime though. Maintainence isnt done during normal turn-arounds though, usually overnight or when the aircraft is taken out of service for a few hours.

Siemon_Says23 karma

Hi there, thank you for doing this AMA.

I'm going to apply to become an ATC next year on Schiphol, Amsterdam the Netherlands.

Why did you choose for the tower position instead of the area or en route? Does it fit you better as a person or do you just like the view instead of the radar every day? ;)

munkey_boi29 karma

I was asked for a preference by my company, but my training depended on what their business demand was at the time as they train you. At the time they wanted tower and approach controllers, and I preferred the airport side anyway.

kimmooo20 karma

Funniest typos on the channel? Like when you laughed or thought how could someone say that or be that stupid?

munkey_boi70 karma

It's a bit like picking up the phone when someone is having a conversation with someone else and hearing the tail-end of what was being said. Like if the Captain is talking to the First Officer as the First Officer starts to transmit, it can be quite funny. I once heard "...and it was stuck in there for an hour"... draw your own conclusions

oversizedhat19 karma

How often do near misses happen to airborne aircraft?

munkey_boi23 karma

depends what your definition of near miss is. Generally across the UK, separation is lost between 0-4 times a month in controlled airspace. Considering over 6500 aircraft use that space a day, its not a very frequent thing, and can be attributable to all manner of things, eg unknown aircraft infringing controlled airspace etc.

szzszx18 karma

What's the biggest fuck-up you've experienced on the job? Also, do you support any football team?

munkey_boi61 karma

Not something I've experienced personally but sometimes controllers, being human, do make mistakes. For example, instructing an aircraft to climb when there's another aircraft along its trajectory. There are numerous safety nets controllers use. Think of them as several layers of swiss cheese. Each one has holes in it, but rarely do all the holes line up. Things like TCAS, Short Term Conflict Alert, Controlled Airspace Infringement Tool, Descent Rate Monitor, Approach Funnel Deviation Alerting System, Runway Incursion Monitor Collision Avoidance System etc etc. This is why there has never been a mid-air collision in Controlled Airspace in the UK.

Austriker17 karma

Have you ever been involved in an air accident?

munkey_boi34 karma

Nope, don't intend to either. Don't much fancy defending myself from a Manslaughter charge!

loosebolts17 karma

With the problem at HQ in December last year (the one which grounded a large number of aircraft in the UK), does this sort of thing only affect commerical aircraft, or is Joe Bloggs in his little Cessna grounded too?

munkey_boi23 karma

The flow management that was applied only affects aircraft using the controlled airspace Airways and Upper Air Routes. Private pilots intending to fly outside controlled airspace or from an airport inside controlled airspace but to leave controlled airspace should be unaffected.

wheelchairman9117 karma

Have you ever had to deal with a military escort? (As in the case of an emergency) if so, how different is comms proceedure with them when compared to civillian traffic?

munkey_boi48 karma

Never had to deal with a military escort, but sometimes we get military rescue helicopters on our frequency. Generally the military are a bit "cowboy" and think they can do whatever they like. Not so much a bravado match, more just me trying to stop a heli welding itself to an A320

xNightProwlerx17 karma

When did you get the idea to be an air traffic conttroller?

And what is your funniest memory of the Job?

munkey_boi68 karma

I've always had a strong interest in aviation and I like a challenge. My work gets my thinking carefully and thoroughly every day and there are always new problems to solve.

Funniest was probably sitting on ground once and listening to the pilot of an aircraft give the passenger briefing ("Welcome on board ladies and gentleman for your flight today to...."). It was pretty frustrating as it meant I couldnt transfer anyone to the tower to take off, but I did get to hear that it was 24 degrees in Milan.

Mythiees15 karma

Have you ever had a 'terse conversation' with the captain of an aircraft who didn't see it your way?

munkey_boi23 karma

A few times. Usually because they dont get what they want and dont like it.

dvdbraz15 karma

Are movies and documentaries correct when the plane is in trouble or crashes, air traffic controllers get emotionally invested, get upset and if a plane crashes on your watch, are you in shit and could you be fired?

munkey_boi21 karma

It can be emotionally difficult for a controller, especially as they realistically could hear the dying screams of a pilot. I know people its affected badly, some come back, some dont. Its hard. You'll only ever be held to account if you did something wrong and you should have known better

siouxsie_sioux14 karma

Do you get to travel for free?

munkey_boi26 karma

I wish. We do get access to some discount schemes and can get standby tickets, but then there's no guarantee of travelling. I'd sooner pay more and be guaranteed.

AhmedESaad13 karma

Was your plan to ever be an Air Traffic Controller when you were a kid, sir?

munkey_boi38 karma

Pilot actually. But my family didnt have the financial ability to support me through it. Being where I am now though, I dont think I'd enjoy the constraints and company pressures that pilots suffer.

tmhiott13 karma

SPOILERS FOR BREAKING BAD:

Hello.

In the TV show Breaking Bad (it's an american show, idk if you've seen it) there is an episode where an air traffic controller messes up and two jets hit each other mid air and spew airplane parts and body parts all over the neighborhoods below.

How possible is that? Could an air traffic controller such as yourself accidentally mess up and have two airplanes hit each other?

Thanks you're the best!

munkey_boi17 karma

Its pretty unlikely, there are too many warning systems on the ground and on the planes to prevent it. Its technically possible, but pretty unlikely

WhenWalrusesAttack13 karma

Do you like your job? Can you give a brief summary of how an average day goes? Thank you!

munkey_boi46 karma

I love it.

Normally I'll get to work about 15 minutes before I'm due to take over and check the weather forecast for the day, any standing agreement changes or temporary operating instructions. I'll then head up to the tower and take a handover from the controller in position. Generally I'll work for an hour then take a 30 minute break. Sometimes that will be longer or shorter depending on staffing levels, but our regulations require us to take a 30 minute break after a max of 2 hours. At the end of the day I take the headset off, go home and do whatever. Outside of work we're very fortunate to get good pay and plenty of holiday (y)

bigblueoni11 karma

Do you think that the job of the ATC might be fully done by computers in the future? How much of the planning is done by computers now?

munkey_boi24 karma

I doubt it will ever be completely done by computer, perhaps the future will involve a computer making a lot of decisions but still supervised by people. Computers at the minute take away a lot of the mundane and time-consuming tasks to allow us to spend our time making more decisions and issuing more instructions

JonnyBravoII10 karma

I use flightradar24.com to watch all of the greater London airports as I find it interesting to watch the paths that the planes will fly to stay out of each other's way.

One thing I've always wondered is that even late at night, when there are maybe 10 total planes in the air across the whole swath of England, why do they still fly the same paths? Why don't they just fly a more direct route and short cut their way to the final approach? Do you always run the same routes for safety purposes?

munkey_boi16 karma

A lot of arrival routes are flown because of things like noise-abatement. At upper levels they are looking at something called "free flight" though Im not sure how that's going. The idea is that aircraft will be able to route directly to their destination. London though has very complex airspace and so many controllers working it, that so much coordination would have to happen to get direct routings it would probably be quicker to let the aircraft fly the route.

ZenZibbeh10 karma

I assume you sit about looking at screens all day. So .. office pranks?

munkey_boi28 karma

Not so much in the control room, in the break room however....

scottwalker8810 karma

Hi, did you ever play the Flight Control app?

If you did, just how much better were you than the average player?

munkey_boi29 karma

I've played a few apps and im absolutely terrible :D

yore_9 karma

How many hours do u need 2 work each day? Do u even work in the evening?

munkey_boi23 karma

We work 24/7, so we work with 5 shift patterns. 2 mornings, 2 afternoons, 2 nights, 4 days off. Shifts are anywhere from 7-10 hours long

100000cats9 karma

What advice do you have someone who's working towards being a controller? (Currently studying aviation management)

munkey_boi21 karma

Honestly, if you just want to be a controller, aviation management at this stage is a waste of your time. It might be useful if you get the job in order to progress to management, but its almost totally irrelevant to being able to control aircraft. Unless you can do that, you wont get a foot in the door. I'd recommend getting a job working with people. Get used to how they can moan, be needy, unable to look after themselves etc, and get used to communicating effectively. A bit of world experience goes a long way.

(Not meaning to dash your dreams etc, just being honest. Take a visit to a local tower and ask controllers what they think :) )

KoiyaOkem8 karma

What kind of sick days can you have? Are there enough people to fill in if another isn't feeling well?

Do air traffic controllers get frequent medical checks for physical and mental health?

Thought of this from the breaking bad episode where the air traffic controller causes an incident because his daughter died.

munkey_boi11 karma

It's just like anywhere else really regarding sick days. If you're sick you dont come in. Medically we are checked at least once every 2 years, down to annually once you're over 40. Usually there is spare capacity, or they can bring someone in on overtime from another shift to cover. We do have to be very careful with what sort of medication we can take. Most antibiotics will suspend our medical until 24/48hrs after we've finished taking them, and we can only take paracetamol or ibuprofen pain-wise without having to stop controlling.

P0kerDem0n8 karma

Mundane!? Your job sounds very interesting. It is a huge responsibility obviously but directing aircraft also means staying so close to everything in the commercial aviation world.

A question, how do Air Traffic Controllers, Approach Controllers and En-route Controllers work together? I mean, how does the handover from one to another take place, especially in an airport like Heathrow where it is always busy?

munkey_boi27 karma

Before an aircraft can penetrate (lets get the giggles out the way from the start) the airpsace of another controller, it must be coordinated. There are 2 types of coordination - Tactical, done on an aircraft by aircraft basis, or standing, which is that an agreed thing will happen to every aircraft until you coordinate something else. Most traffic will be subject to silent handovers, so for example. From the tower, I clear something for take-off after it has been either released by radar or is on a free-flow route. Once it is safely established in the climb and the crew are settled, I'll tell them to contact radar. Radar will then identify the aircraft, give it a further climb or heading to deconflict it from other traffic, then when its clean it will be transferred to area. Generally, when stuff is transferred to area it will be on a specified route climbing to a pre-agreed level. Then its just basically the reverse to approach and land.

Zekthros7 karma

What Premier League team do you root for?

munkey_boi41 karma

I dont really care as long as Man Utd lose as thats the girlfriend's team. My team is down in the conference, no glory there!

Lurch2Life6 karma

How long are your shifts? I toured the PDX Air Traffic Control Tower in HS (pre-9/11) and they said their shifts were only 4 hours long. How about yours?

munkey_boi16 karma

I work 6 days on, 4 days off, generally between 7 and 10 hours a shift. I never work more than 2 hours without a 30 min break though.

PM_ME_YOUR_FLAPS6 karma

I am a training pilot, how can I not piss you off once I start?

munkey_boi10 karma

Buy me cakes and biscuits and dont spend too long on the frequency - we'll get on just fine :)

MyBadUserName6 karma

Hi, Thanks for the AmA. I have a couple of questions.

1) Have airports had any near misses where a civilian drone nearly got sucked into an aeroplanes engine?

2) What is the likely outcome if there were a civilian drone related incident.

munkey_boi6 karma

There were a couple at heathrow recently, one apparently passed 20ft under an aircrafts wing as reported by the pilot.

Likely outcome is obvious, the biggest danger is a crash, and the approaches to most airports are over densely populated areas. Fortunately, modern commercial aircraft can fly on 50% engines and are pretty sturdy. I wouldnt want to be on one if it happened though, lets put it that way.

JimBroke5 karma

What's the most dangerous situation that's ever come up in your job?

munkey_boi10 karma

Check my above reply to IronMew's post about Piggy-back Go-arounds :)

whatsthemaximumusern5 karma

What do you think of the use of email and text messages to replace verbal communication in ATC? For instance, the weather report for the Air Asia flight was sent by email, and not picked up in person. Some of the routine ATC comms are starting to be sent by text. It's more efficient, but personally I think there is a human element missing. Do you think this makes a difference?

munkey_boi6 karma

CPDLC is something thats in use in several places. At the bigger airports, most flight plan clearances are given via data link because its quicker and is less likely to be misunderstood as it can be printed or retained for checking. Likewise, i believe some trials are being undertaken to see the viability of issuing executive in-flight instructions to crews. Personally, I'd rather retain executive instructions as being via voice. It's more immediate, and you need that sometimes.

worldwarmarvel4 karma

What is the biggest risk you've ever taken?

munkey_boi17 karma

I dont. My job isnt about taking risks its about minimising them. If something looks to close or I'm not comfortable pushing a departure in an arrivals gap i wont.

_AlexMercer_4 karma

For how many hours do you work a day?

munkey_boi5 karma

7-10 hours per shift, 6 shifts on then 4 days off

I_am_Nathan4 karma

Do you ever ask visiting military aircraft to do flypast for your entertainment? I've seen this happen before. Also, has any aircraft ever buzzed you like in the movies?

munkey_boi11 karma

I wont lie, I like planes, most people in my job do. I wouldnt pass up the opportunity to see something unusual fly down the runway extremely low!

IForgotTheFood3 karma

Have you ever had to deal with a rude/stubborn pilot? How common is it?

munkey_boi3 karma

Pretty uncommon. Most pilots are nice professional guys and girls, same as the controllers. It does happen every now and then, maybe once or twice a week.

COBRAws2 karma

Have you seen or heard about new software capable of assisting ATC's apart from the 2D typical radar-like equipment wee see in the movies?

munkey_boi3 karma

Not yet

ryanwilliamson2 karma

How do you deal with the language barrier?

In Europe people speak so many different languages. How do you communicate with pilots from different countries that speak many different languages?

munkey_boi4 karma

ICAO requires all pilots and controllers to speak English, and we have set standard phraseology to make things unambiguous

geckosk2 karma

Your favorite aircraft? Why?

munkey_boi4 karma

I quite like the Dash 8 Q400 as they're cool little regional turboprops, and quieter than you'd think, plus the pilots can really throw them around. Obviously the A380 is just a technical masterpiece

Patches672 karma

Have you ever had a moment like this? -> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KW10xCub3Kg

Where there is just weird shit up in the sky and no one knows what the heck it is?

munkey_boi4 karma

You get weird clutter on radar sometimes, can be anything from a big flock of birds, to rain, to balloons, to General Aviation pilots that are lost and dont want to admit it!

kennsyhly2 karma

What's your take on the recent airAsia crash?

munkey_boi3 karma

Looks like nothing more than bad weather. The pilot requested weather avoidance, the controller presumably tried to coordinate further down the line but before that could happen, the flight entered some horrific weather and got torn apart.

parin892 karma

What do I need to do to become like you? Education and training wise.

munkey_boi3 karma

Take a general interest in aviation, be competent at Maths and English. Other than that, the abilities required are either things you just have or dont.

UncopyrightTNT2 karma

What do you normally eat while air traffic controlling? Greetings from Canada

munkey_boi4 karma

Greetings eh! :)

Either I cook extra at home and bring it in to heat up, or we have a little snack shop one of the guys runs with noodles, chocolate, fizzy drinks etc. Or sometimes just microwave ready meals if im being lazy. Oh, and coffee.... lots and lots of coffee! :)

OutoflurkintoLight2 karma

Whenever you travel both in the airport and/or in the air do you get any benefits because of your job? do they go easier on you in customs? free upgrades on flights? possibly even a pilot who recognizes you or anything?

munkey_boi3 karma

We can get access to standby tickets and fly quite cheap but only if the plane isnt full of fare paying passengers. Also, I can get like 10% off at the shops in the airport I work at. Other than that, im just a passenger

Enuratique1 karma

Why can't your job be done entirely by computers? It sounds like most of it already is?

munkey_boi1 karma

At present, computers dont quite have the decision making ability or flexibility that the human mind does. Its true that a lot of our work is assisted by computers, but the final decision rests with the controller. Computers dont have experience, gut feelings, the ability to detect a change in the pitch of the voice of an pilot when the shit has hit the fan etc. You can be a really reassuring voice for a pilot when they're having an extremely bad day and can help keep them calm by being calm. Also, from a public perception point of view, I dont think the travelling public would get into a plane with no pilot, nor would they accept it all being controlled by computer.