ATC - How to Apply
The Role of an Air Traffic Control Officer (ATCO)
Pilots require support from ATC in order to operate safely. The industry also requires ATC to ensure the efficiency of airports and the skies all over the world. With the ever-increasing volume of traffic, managing flights is a complex and sometimes pressurised job.
Air Traffic Controllers are broadly split into two separate specialisms – some ATCOs use radar, amongst other technology, to track and communicate with whilst aircraft en-route, whilst others guide aircraft onto approaches and manage them once they’re on the ground.
ATCOs responsible for the en-route phase of flights are known as Area or Terminal Controllers, whilst controllers involved in the landing and ground phase of flight are known as Approach or Aerodrome Controllers.
Who Provides Air Traffic Control in the UK?
Some UK Airports provide their own Air Traffic Control Services, and so in some instances you may have to apply to a specific airport for an aerodrome controller role.
How do I apply?
Before applying to NATS, it’s worth checking that you meet their strict eligibility criteria. Becoming an ATCO means you’ll be required to pass a European Class 3 medical, details of which can be found on the NATS eligibility criteria page. You must also be aged 18 or over, and have a minimum of 5 GCSEs at C or above, including maths and english.
What skills do I require?
The minimum academic requirement to become a NATS ATCO is 5 GCSEs at C or above, to include maths and english.
Perhaps more important than academic ability is the need to be able to work under pressure, think in three dimensions and process information quickly and accurately. To try and decide whether you have the aptitude to become a controller, NATS have developed a series of online games to try.
The Application Process
If you’re successful in FEAST, you’ll be invited back in the afternoon for another computer-based test called DART.
- a technical and competency based interview
- A personality profiling interview
- a further Eurocontrol computer test called ‘multi-pass’.
This is a very important stage and it’s essential that you’re able to provide evidence of your achievements, whether in a formal work capacity or in other areas of life. Trained assessors, such as Air Traffic Controllers, HR representatives and members of the Human Factors group will score your responses.
You’ll be asked to complete some basic medical information and if this is acceptable, you’ll be invited to book for a medical at the NATS Swanwick Centre.
Once you’ve passed the medical, you’ll be placed in a pool of applicants waiting to be allocated to a course and NATS start the process of security vetting and reference checking.
You can only apply once. Don’t be too disheartened if you don’t make it through. Due to the very high cost of training, NATS have to be as certain as possible about our selection decisions.