Saw this request pop up on IAMA the other day and figured I would give it a shot. I have been an Air Traffic Controller in the US Navy for 4 years now. I have worked on a Aircraft Carrier, at a control tower in Djibouti, and currently stationed at a facility on the eastern seaboard of the United States.

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Comments: 162 • Responses: 52  • Date: 

showmeassandtitties28 karma

Do you ever get lone Cessna pilots who ask for a read-out of their ground speed?

brngrhm8413 karma

I haven't but im sure it happens. Aircraft are just like any other equipment, their readouts could be broken or unreliable

DrTheSciNerd10 karma

Shouldn't you get off reddit and pay attention to the air traffic?!

brngrhm849 karma

Surely! But I am not at work, and personal electronic devices are never authorized while you are on position.

kilopeter9 karma

What education and training did you complete before starting to train as an air traffic controller?

brngrhm8411 karma

After bootcamp, the Navy sends you to A-School to get your certification. It is an intensive 4-5 month course where you take a test every 2-3 days, and have very very few chances to fail. After that, some people get sent to a C-school that will focus their abilities toward what type of ATC service they will be providing at their duty station.

kilopeter2 karma

Thanks for the reply! Did you enter bootcamp straight from high school?

brngrhm845 karma

No I went to college and got a 4 year degree before I ended up enlisting in the navy, so I didn't join till i was in my mid 20's

floating_boy3 karma

Did you join as a higher rank since you had college experience? Did you look at / or apply for OCS?

brngrhm845 karma

Yes, having college experience allows you to start at E-3 instead of E-1. I plan on becoming an officer later in my career.

Saemika2 karma

Why didn't you join straight into office training camp? I'm thinking of trying to go this rout.

brngrhm846 karma

Because I wanted to experience what its like to be enlisted before I am put in a position to lead them.

chubbypun6431 karma

Well, what types of ATC service are there?

brngrhm841 karma

Ship or shore.

Senray5 karma

What do you think of VATSIM?

brngrhm845 karma

One of my roomates had this, and while I haven't played with it, I think its pretty neat. Aviation isn't just a job for a lot of people, its a passion. From what I saw it was pretty close to the real thing, and as a gamer I think it fits in pretty well as a simulator. That said, there's a world of difference between giving control instructions to an imaginary 737 with imaginary passengers and a real one with hundereds of souls on board.

justscottaustin4 karma

Have you ever seen Pushing Tin? Thoughts? The movie was brilliant. Was it anywhere near realistic?

brngrhm845 karma

An enjoyable movie, but a little over dramatized. No, wake turbulence will not pick you up and spin you around and around, it will blow you straight back along the ground.

PiperArrown3191q3 karma

You say that you're at a 'facility' now, and since prior to that you referred to tower work specifically, are you now doing approach control or center-type operations? I'm somewhat familiar with civilian ATC (airline pilot), and I'm under the impression that Center & Tower are two almost entirely separate career paths. Is it different in the military and/or am I mistaken?

Also, I've flown in joint use airspace, where the civilian approach controllers were handling the military traffic, too (Little Rock area), and periodically the C-130s would be turned over to, say, "channel 3." I was a bit envious that radio freqs could be so simple (from a user perspective, after punching in 5-6 digit freqs in my radios). Is there consistency in the military for each frequency "channel?" That is, is the UHF frequency behind "channel 3" the same anywhere in the world? The reason I ask is that in the civilian world, common frequencies (usually CTAFs like 122.8) can be ridiculously noisy (especially on weekends), so I can't image military operators being confined to a small set of frequencies, given the likely overlap across the country. Is this an issue?

brngrhm843 karma

Currently I am training Final Control, conducting PAR approaches and ASR approaches. As far as the frequencies go, they get assigned to a "button" (button 1, button 2, etc.) and for the aircraft that are attached to our command those frequencies are preprogrammed into their aircraft as well. any transient aircraft would have to punch it in manually. some frequencies are commonly used across all facilities, like 121.something is commonly a ground control freq

overgrownmoose2 karma

ASRs are the worst. I control at one of a handful of FAA facilities that do them, and the only people who want them are military pilots and one local guy. They always give us an obligatory good job, but we all know that we don't do them enough to stay proficient. Especially no gyros.

brngrhm841 karma

Turn left. Pause. Stop turn. Pause Turn right. Pause Stop turn.Pause(wait 10 seconds to see if you actually got them on course)...Sigh. Turn right....

PiperArrown3191q1 karma

Thanks for the response.

So you can change functions somewhat readily in the military?

Also, is there a military equivalent of a true Center controller, or do the pilots just use the civilian ones (I'm guessing the latter since having both seems redundant).

brngrhm841 karma

We go where they tell us :). Right now I am training in Radar, 2 months from now I might be on Ground Control. Ultimately you want to become a FWS and be qualified on every position in the facility.

gallantBlackKnight3 karma

How different is being an air traffic controller at sea then on land?

brngrhm845 karma

Completely. First off, our area of control is strictly limited to the launch and recovery of aircraft. While they are on mission we do not interact with the aircraft at all, with certain exeptions. The criteria for mainting lateral separation are different as well, we can get the aircraft much much closer together on their final approach to the ship, though that relies heavily on how effecient the people working on the flight deck are at getting the aircraft out of the landing area. We use a completely different reference document that determines all the rules and regulations we have to follow, while we are at sea.

plentifulpooper3 karma

Do you grant Mavericks request for a fly by?

brngrhm847 karma

Naw dude. Naw. I don't feel like going to captain's mast.

BlueCONVERSE2 karma

Whats your favorite part of the Movie "Die Hard 2"? Are you Hard core as Bruce Willis is in the Film?

brngrhm843 karma

The part where bruce willis pulls out the lighter and sets the line of leaking jet fuel ablaze. The flash point of aviation fuel is low enough that you could drop a lit match in a barrel of it and it would just extinguish the match.

Casen_7 karma

high enough you mean?

brngrhm8410 karma

yes. that.

mrblueskyT012 karma

Im a glider pilot in the UK so the rules and or culture may be different but; When I call Airfields (and radar services and the like) to give them a rough idea of my position and what im doing, (for example 'I am 5 miles north of your airfield and thermaling') what do you do with that infomation? or am I wasting my time?

brngrhm841 karma

We use it to sharpen up our picture. So great, we have a VFR target, it doesn't really matter what he's doing, but if we know you are thermaling then we know to keep an eye on you possibly climbing sharply for potential traffic calls.

Dadalot2 karma

Is there anything about what you guys do that would freak out the people flying on the planes?

brngrhm849 karma

the only thing that comes to mind is one section in the 7110.65 that says if there is a bomb threat against an aircraft on the ground, the pilot may chose to ignore the threat and take off, and we are required to issue him a clearance if it will not adversely affect other traffic

Bush_Wookie10-42 karma

What is the one thing during training that they stress on more than anything else? Like I remember when getting my PPL it was EYES OPEN haha. Anything like that, like a number one absolutely don't ever forget do kind of thing?

brngrhm844 karma

Situational awareness is really the most important thing in the job. While you have control of an aircraft, you should be scanning your radar/scanning the runways looking for any potential developing situations. Things can go south really, really, really fast, and if you could have prevented it, thats your ass on the line.

Runs_With_Bears2 karma

What boat were you on?

brngrhm842 karma

CVN 74, USS John C. Stennis

Runs_With_Bears2 karma

Nice, I was on the Enterprise in 06 and 07. Squadron though.

brngrhm841 karma

I had a good friend on that ship back then, a Marine AO.

Hermiesterberger1 karma

Will you have to do any additional educational training if you transitioned to an ATC for the FAA?

brngrhm841 karma

I'm not sure to be honest. I'm trying to do 20 years active duty, so I don't even know if the FAA will take me due to the 31 year old hiring restriction. I may be limited to DoD and contract towers. But im betting the safe answer is yes, you can always count on more training.

ticanthunder1 karma

I'm looking into going into this career a fter I finish my bachelor's in a year. How difficult would taking the entrance exam and training to someone that hadn't gone in with hands on military experience or specific AC schooling?

brngrhm841 karma

I couldn't really tell you not having gone the civilian side. If you were thinking of joining the military, as long as you come into it determined to suceed and prepared to put your head in the books for 10 hours a day of classroom instruction and studying for 100 days you will do fine.

lazerblind1 karma

What is your opinion of the film "Pushing Tin?"

brngrhm841 karma

Great movie, good phraseology, kinda silly ;)

you9991 karma

What is the most stupidest thing someone has done while you were working?

brngrhm841 karma

Thank you for this question. While I was working in Djibouti alongside the host nation and french controllers. Single runway. There were a couple of vehicles that needed to cross the runway to go pickup some cargo, so they asked my permission to cross the runway. Normally I would coordinate with the the Local Controller, and give the go ahead once I got his thumbs up, but the french controllers like to take the initiative and give the clear to cross. I told the vehicles to hold short of the active runway and contact tower. Now, I knew that there was a large passenger jet on short final, so after that I listned to the exchange between them and made sure that the french controller gave an instruction to continue holding short, which he did, but due to their accent and the way he read the instruction, the vehicle thought he had clearance to cross, and he went right across, with the Aircraft about half 3/4th of a mile from the runway threshold. Interestingly, at this particular intersection, the vehicle actually has to backtrack down the runway toward the threshold about 100ft to cross, so as he made the turn he realized his fuck up because he was staring right at a full size jet. He floored it and got across before the jet crossed the threshold, but another 10 seconds and he would have been a crushed twisted heap of metal.

blitzskrieg1 karma

What's your highest score in the game "flight control"? Do you have a competition among your peers for number of flights controlled in real time.

brngrhm841 karma

i think it was like 150? Not the most realistic sim, but we do play little hand held games like crossy road, or flappy bird in our off time on the ship and compare scores

exhausedalpaca1 karma

What are the odds of a accident happening like the one in Breaking Bad?

brngrhm841 karma

God that scene made me cringe. I remember when I was watching it, and I forget exactly what he said, but something ticked off in my brain, "Did he just descend someone through an altitude where someone was climbing? Thats a no-no." Then the collision alert started going off and yeah. Feels. Realistically, not likely. It's a big sky, and most controllers have the common sense to know when they are seriously off their game due to mental duress.

fcolella1 karma

What's the most technical sentence you can make that only colleagues would understand?

brngrhm841 karma

Actually most control instructions would be relative easy to understand, thats kind of the point. We want to be clear and concise while we are controlling, so theres no room for misinterpretation. And we tend not to issue long instructions that have a lot of conditionals. I suppose some of the phraseology on the ship could be pretty confusing because they substitute some words in place of others that would be used on land.

abby13711 karma

my dad keeps telling me this is a very stressful job, he's a pilot but, really how much of that is true?

brngrhm841 karma

It can be. Hours can be long if there aren't enough qualified people at the facility to have a decent schedule. There is a lot riding on you if you make a serious error. The most stress probably comes from the pace of the training. You have to memorize vast amounts of data in a relatively short time span, and if you can't cut it by a certain amount of training time, you can get revocated.

logicblocks1 karma

Ever came across a Muslim colleague? What do people think about Muslims wanting to go through this career?

brngrhm842 karma

I worked with a number of muslim civilian controllers while I was stationed in Djibouti, and with a single exception, all of them were great people. Religious extremists are just that, extremists that do not represent the general population.

Django_Unchanged1 karma

Are you going to work in AT control once you leave the military?

brngrhm841 karma

It's pretty likely. Most military controllers end up going into the FAA or contracting with the DoD. Pay is decent and the bennies are great.

mianfg1 karma

What made you become an air traffic controller?

brngrhm843 karma

At MEPS, they told me I could be a CS(Cook), HT(Pipe repair), or go in with no designation. I told them I had a 99 asvab and they could check again. They said I could try AC so I went with that and never looked back.

raidersfan121 karma

What kind of training did you do? How is the pay?

brngrhm842 karma

Training never stops. It goes on continuously. You learn a position, you get pro-time, then you move on to the next position the facility/division needs you to get qualified on. You train anually on every position you are qualified on to get requalified. You have to log a certain number of hours on position every month to keep your qualification active. Training is life. As far as the pay, i suggest you google "Navy Enlisted Pay Chart" :D

cantrellee1 karma

In a normal environment, how long does one air traffic controller spend talking to a plane as it is coming in?

brngrhm843 karma

Depends on a number of factors, its an extremely fluid environment. It could be 30 seconds, it could be 30 minutes. As long as the aircraft is in your area of control, you're talking to him. A typical precision approach takes a couple of minutes from the handoff to the touchdown.

black_flag_4ever1 karma

What's your schedule like?

brngrhm842 karma

Fluid. Depends on the hours of the facility. We cant spend more than 10 hours a day on position, and we swap from mornings to evenings every week. Usually their is a crew that handles the midnight watch if the facility is open 24 hours a day.

chubbypun6431 karma

Could you go into detail about your daily routine? Aviation as an industry always fascinated me.

brngrhm842 karma

It's much like any job. You show up for the morning/afternoon muster. Find out whats happening for the day. Go check your equpiment. Take over for the person you are replacing and get to work. Get some training. Eat lunch, work some more, wash rinse repeat.

Clsjajll1 karma

How do you stay sharp with the repetition of your job?

brngrhm841 karma

Training, training, and more training. You read. You memorize. You read some more. You pick the brain for tips and trick of the controllers who have more time than you. There is a minimum amount of time required each month to stay current on each position in an ATC facility.

The_lazy1s1 karma

Hey, Im currently scared to flying and about to fly across the world. Anything you can say to help me with fear? I can come up with dozens of scenarios in which we crash and your responsible for 20% of them. Thanks

brngrhm849 karma

Flying is statistically the safest form of travel. Even in accients, the survival rate is 95%. The only things that are unsurvivable are the ones where there is a a complete loss of control of the aircraft and its in freefall, or a mid air disintigration. But you should know that the airframes are tested to exceed well over the ammount of force that they could encounter in normal flight. And as far as controller error, remember that there are multiple eyes watching the airspace at once, so its really really really unlikely that everyone misses the development of a situation. You are in good hands.

AreThree1 karma

Is it true that there STILL isn't a redundant system in place in case the primary goes down?

In reference to something like this...

brngrhm842 karma

This actually kind of centers on a big issue. People always ask "why isnt the system automated" yet? Well, a lot of it is. A whole lot of it. But each facility has its own backup procedures for each piece of equipment that could possibly fail. Having everything be on one whole system would actually increase the vulnerability, because then it would all go down at once. But the way it is now, if you lose the ability to provide service at once facility due to weather or malfunction, not a big deal, you just divert the aircraft somewhere else.

Lovehat1 karma

What was the biggest argument with a pilot or some one else flying related you have had?

brngrhm843 karma

We don't argue with pilots. If a pilot has an issue with the control service he was provided, they can come speak with someone at the facility, but they will never be allowed to confront the controller specifically.

kavastudios1 karma

Hi. After an incident, what is the standard procedure regarding the air traffic data, comms records, etc...?

brngrhm842 karma

everyone who was involved is pulled off of their positions and separated from each other immediately. they all give their respective account of what happened. if equipment failure was involved, a technician other than the one that last performed maintenance has to check to see what went wrong with it. All recorded frequencies are pulled from the recorder and reviewed. at that point they decide who was at fault and someone gets revocated/loses their qualification. if there was a death involved then all parties have to get checked out by a psych doc

Jalfredo1 karma

What are your hours like and how stressful is your job?

brngrhm841 karma

Each facility has a different schedule depending on how many people they have with qualifications. Less qualified people=a worse schedule. More qualified people=relaxed schedule. We can't work more than 10 hours on a position in a day. Often times you will spend a week working from 7-3, the a week from 3-11, and then back to 7-3. At 24hour facilities, there will also be a midwatch to handle the hourse from 11-7.

Samnafez1 karma

Hello, my 9 year old brother loves planes and wanted to know if it is hard being able to control multiple airplanes at once? And also is the process difficult to become an air traffic controller? Thank you for doing this AMA.

brngrhm841 karma

It depends on the complexity of the airspace, the volume and complexity of air traffic in the airspace, etc. etc. I.E. its easier to work with a bunch of aircraft with similar speeds and handling charactarsistics than a smorgasborg of different types (f-18s, turboprops, helos etc.) it becomes less easy to predict how quickly they will complete a turn and you have to worry about a fast aircraft running up behind a slower one. The way we make it easy to handle multiple aircraft at once is by using the same procedures every day over and over and over, so we know what to expect 95% of the time. We also keep the aircraft separated both laterally and horizontally. Depending on how sure we are of the position of the aircraft we can bring that seaprationg down to about a mile apart, but the further away from the radar you go we keep the aircraft further apart to be sure there is no chance of a collision. We have a lot of computerized automation that helps us keep track of which aircraft are where, what they are doing, etc. etc. etc. As far as the training, the only harder course of study in the navy is Nuclear Engineer. Our school takes 5 months and you take a test every 2-3 days, and you can be dropped from the program for a single failure. But if you apply yourself and focus on studying as much as you can, i believe anyone could learn to do it if they have an analytical mind.

Fuck_Best_Buy1 karma

What did you score on your asvap?

brngrhm842 karma


Fuck_Best_Buy1 karma

Atta boy. How long did you have to wait to go to basic? I know when I joined there was like a 4 month wait, but my recruiter called someone and got me in after a week.

brngrhm841 karma

5 or 6 months in DEP. I was actually originally slated to be a Nuke, but my recruiter didn't do his due dilligence getting me an age waiver, so at MEPS i had to chose something else. Chose ATC and never went back.

ArrowOriki1 karma

What is a nuke?

brngrhm845 karma

Nuclear Engineer, one of those poor devils that goes down in the guts of the ship to watch the gauges for the reactors and never comes back lol

vbfire1 karma

Did you fall asleep yet?

brngrhm841 karma

Never ;)

Fluttershybro1 karma

Do you have any tips for someone looking to become an Air Traffic Controller? Is there anyting I can do now that will make me more prepared for the education?

brngrhm841 karma

Sure, read up on the 7110.65 and teach yourself. There is a simulator called VATSIM that has hundreds of thousands of users all practicing flying/atc in a realtime environment. Stuckmic is a good community for someone waning to get into the business. Or you could do like me and join the armed forces and get your training there.

QuantiC_Mechanics1 karma

Thanks for responding all the redditor's questions. I think if you are a ATC you have to be able to focus really hard while you are working. Do you have any special training for improving your concentration? If not, Can you share your tips about this topic?

brngrhm841 karma

Repetition. You go over the FACMAN and the 7110.65 and the 80T so many times it becomes instinct. You rehearse your phraseology in the mirror till you can spit it out like Busta. It's less about focus and more about comfortability. You work it like a drill and it becomes effortless.

chadmin1 karma

Do you ever wish you had become Air Intercept Controller instead? As a former OS AIC I couldn't imagine just working traffic.

brngrhm841 karma

No way. Elite of the fleet baby.

mossbackfarm1 karma

I hope I'm not too late to the party, but what do you think of civilian UAV / drone use, and it's impact on the US airspace?

brngrhm841 karma

I think our procedures are going to have to adapt as the demand for drones services skyrockets, and I remember seeing something online a while ago recommending special use airspace for drones at something like 200-400 feet all across the US, which makes sense to me. I think to use this airspace it should require a license just like anything else that could theoreticaly cause damage to persons or property, but properly regulated I don't see why it wouldn't be possible as long as all entities involved were on the same page. The risk you run is juvenile teenagers deciding it would be funny to prank an airport by flying a drone around in the approach corridor causing potential collisions. But its hard to regulate stupidity, so I don't have a definitive answer about how the FAA should go about it.

Bleeding_Edge-7 karma


brngrhm8415 karma

My wife thinks so