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UK ATC how does it work

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UK ATC how does it work

Old 10th Apr 2013, 14:35
  #1 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
Join Date: Apr 2013
Location: London
Posts: 1
UK ATC how does it work

Hi all,

New to this forum and forums in general so apologies in advance.

I have been looking into ATC as a career for a while now and have been trying to do some self study. I have been looking into how ATC within the UK works and I am looking for any advice you may have specific to the UK. Much of what I have looked at seems to be more FAA/US related.

As I understand it, ATC is the control of Aircraft within defined airspace. In the UK FIR EGPX and EGTT define UK airspace.

Each aircraft is fitted with communication devices which transmit to receivers its position/speed/alt at anyone time. (Are the recievers ADS - B and Transponders and are there any others?). Squawk codes are given to the pilots to manually enter into the transponder allowing ATC to identify the aircraft.

It is the job of ATC to control and provide air traffic services (like METAR, TAFS and NOTAMS) to the aircraft at all stages (Pre, Departure/Arrival, En-route?) Which is done by terminal, en-route controllers and assistants.

ATC is achieved throughout the Aircraft's journey by each controller handing over the Aircraft once it is leaving that particular controllers area of responsibility.

One of the crucial roles of ATC is to ensure that Aircraft are separated to the minimum safe distance at all times to avoid collision and the effects of wake turbulence.

Pilots submit flight plans in which they state whether they will fly Visual flight rules or instrument flight rules, which in turns alters how they will be handled by ATC. i.e using IFR pilots will be given an instruction on how to depart, on what heading and alt and then to fly as per the plan?

Each Airport has pre defined approach, departure routes and control zones.

I think thats as far as I have got so far!Again apologies if I have missed anything or have got anything wrong!

Just want to get a full picture on what is involved within the UK in terms of ATC, any help or guidance you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

Many thanks in advance!!

Jack_d is offline  
Old 10th Apr 2013, 15:47
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Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: Home away from home
Posts: 563
To be honest, giving you the full picture would take a long long time.

ATC is a very complex subject as rules and procedures change between different airports, different stages of flight, day and night, etc etc.

Some would say start reading the CAP493 as that is the main guiding document for ATC in the UK. Personally I don't think it's a good place to start since it would probably be as interesting as watching paint dry.

Have you seen this film?


It tries to explain the basic principles in very very simple terms.

Iif you're interested in a career, why not try and arrange a study visit? You'd probably learn a lot and it could give you an indication to if it's a career you want to pursue or not.

Last edited by Crazy Voyager; 10th Apr 2013 at 15:47.
Crazy Voyager is offline  
Old 10th Apr 2013, 16:02
  #3 (permalink)  
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: UK
Posts: 40
As an easy to understand guide have a look at About the role | NATS

There is an interactive diagram on there somewhere that explains the system and how the various people / equipment interact.

NATS are by no means the only source of info for ATC in the UK but the website is easy to navigate and understand.
Jof_1999 is offline  
Old 15th Apr 2013, 10:02
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Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Swindon
Posts: 42
Not sure of your starting point but buy a copy of Air traffic Control by Graham Duke - about 9 on Amazon - it covers all of the basics in plain English.
tomahawk_pa38 is offline  
Old 15th Apr 2013, 16:55
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Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: farfaraway
Posts: 161
UK atc how does it work?

Normally quite well, in spite of management.
obwan is offline  
Old 16th Apr 2013, 15:06
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Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: EGLL
Posts: 493
I think you are reading too deep into the job and not getting an actual understanding of what ATC does. I would definitely read the book by G.Duke which is recommended by NATS to read before an interview. Apply for training with NATS then pass the personality test then the aptitude tests, then work hard to get through the college training, then successfully pass your validation, then you will learn what the job is really about. Good Luck.
ILS 119.5 is offline  
Old 18th Apr 2013, 09:16
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Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: uk
Posts: 21
Jack, have you visited any ATC units. That would be a good start. It's always best to see the job being done and asking the boys and girls at the coal face why they do the job. Also, look out for open days at the various training centres around the UK. Good luck.
flyer2004 is offline  
Old 28th Apr 2013, 02:20
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Join Date: Apr 2013
Location: The Shire
Posts: 1
As Jof 1999 says, NATS are not the only source of UK ATC info. Try contacting any local airfields/airports and see if you can have a chat with someone there.

A lot of controllers start out as (lowly, but valuable) assistants and get onward training from their company. However, there is no guarantee that this offer will be available if you secure an ATCA position, it depends on what you can negotiate and/or what the company is prepared to offer. Training through from an assistant to a controller can take a while and some companies may not be prepared to make such a commitment when recruiting, especially if you've no prior ATC/aviation experience.

Also, a few glider pilots are connected to other areas of aviation, you may find someone at your local gliding club is an ex-controller.
OneWomanArmy is offline  

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