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ATC Issues A place where pilots may enter the 'lions den' that is Air Traffic Control in complete safety and find out the answers to all those obscure topics which you always wanted to know the answer to but were afraid to ask.

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Old 5th Dec 2012, 19:40   #1 (permalink)
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Join Date: Jun 2012
Location: London
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Pilot to ATCO?

Hi there,

I'm currently an airline pilot flying professionally in the UK. I have to admit the flying bug has waned and I really don't see myself flying for the rest of my life. I'm really attracted to the challenge and opportunities potentially available working on the other side of the radio.

Do many pilots move over to ATC?

Are NATS still recruiting trainee controllers? If successful are you able to choose your area of expertise, i.e radar or tower


Direct DIKRO is offline  
Old 5th Dec 2012, 20:10   #2 (permalink)
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Not heard of many moving from Pilot to ATCO, usually the other way.

As you're already 'in the business', so to speak, why not arrange a liaison visit to Swanwick or Heathrow to give you a look-see and an opportunity to ask as many questions as you feel the urge to ask.

Someone will, I'm sure, appear on this thread who works at one of these locations and will hopefully send you a PM with details of who to contact to arrange such a visit.

Good luck!

rab-k is offline  
Old 5th Dec 2012, 20:38   #3 (permalink)
Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: York, UK
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And in answer of the one question I can...

Yes NATS are still recruiting ATCO trainees!

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Old 5th Dec 2012, 20:58   #4 (permalink)
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You can state a preference of area or approach/tower, but whether or not NATS listen is a different matter. With an Approach/Tower or Tower ticket you're a bit more mobile, with an Area Radar ticket your choices are Swanwick or Prestwick.

And like rab said, check your PMs
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Old 5th Dec 2012, 21:43   #5 (permalink)
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'Back in the day' quite a few ATCOs were ex-pilots, but these had almost to a man been ex-military who had left the services either at a time when civilian pilots' jobs were scarce or because they wanted the stability in their domestic lives that could not be found in civil flying.

My No2 son is an ATCO at Swanwick and I know he is happy to show pilots around the centre.If you are interested send me a PM.

Last edited by Brian 48nav; 6th Dec 2012 at 09:58. Reason: missing word
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Old 5th Dec 2012, 21:51   #6 (permalink)
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I know of a female 747 fo who became a controller- and found that she preferred it (home every night etc.).

The biggest issue you need to think about, IMHO, is quitting your present career to risk getting rated (believe it or not- people, including pilots, fail to make it!). However, if you are looking to change regardless, then go for it.
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Old 5th Dec 2012, 23:11   #7 (permalink)
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Over here at my training college, 9 out of 12 of us on my course are pilots.

And history would show that this has not one iota of influence on passing, and in fact - apparently - more ex-pilots fail to pass course than those with no experience whatsoever.

I've found I just have to shed everything I know (or thought) I knew about ATC and start with a clean slate
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Old 5th Dec 2012, 23:12   #8 (permalink)
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ATCO= No Night Shift ?

@ferris : If you want to go back home every night do'nt choose an ATCO job !!!! . Presently one full night shift , one late evening (end 1 am) and an evening (end 11 Pm) every 12 days...
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Old 6th Dec 2012, 14:37   #9 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by The Many Tentacles
with an Area Radar ticket your choices are Swanwick or Prestwick.
...or Aberdeen
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Old 7th Dec 2012, 23:11   #10 (permalink)
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Pilot to ATCO?

A7700...when your shift ends (either AM or PM), do you go off to your own abode, where you/ your family resides, or do you head off to some hotel with the rest of your crew??
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Old 19th Dec 2012, 17:48   #11 (permalink)
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to Hempy

When the shift (all kind of them)is ended, all team members have to leave. I have no details ( it never happened to me) but by law , there is a period following the end of work which is considered to be the medium amount of time you need to go back home. If you have an accident and be seriously hurt with aftermaths, it will be considered as "a work accident" and you will get some annuities. If you stay after the night shift for example, in your rest lounge for additional sleeping time and leave some hours later, your travel back will not be considered as such.
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Old 20th Dec 2012, 07:22   #12 (permalink)
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I'll put it down to english as a second language.....

The difference between a pilot and an ATCO, in the case I was talking about, is that the ATCO is home "every night", yes, even on night shifts. You can spend the evening with the kids, put them to bed and then go off to work, and you will be back home next morning to send them off to school. A pilot, on the other hand, may be away for up to 21 consecutive days (in the case of the 747 pilot, she was away a minimum of 3 days every time she worked, and on average 15 days of every month were spent down route- def not good for families).

What Hempy was saying about crews spending time in hotels was NOT about ATCOs, but about pilots. i.e. ATCOs sleep every night (or day) in their OWN BED, whereas (longhaul) pilots finish work and sleep in a hotel.

Get it?

It's a big difference in lifestyle. Often, each of us is envious of the other ;-)
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Old 20th Dec 2012, 08:17   #13 (permalink)
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No envy here at all. I treasured sleeping with my wife and eight and a half years I did at Heathrow without working a single night were bliss...
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Old 20th Dec 2012, 18:52   #14 (permalink)
Join Date: Dec 2004
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My wife enjoys the nights she gets on her own in bed, apparently I snore....although I've never heard it myself
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Old 31st Dec 2012, 18:26   #15 (permalink)
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In Maastricht we have some ex-Sabena pilots working as ATCOs... Good luck with your plan!
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