Go Back  PPRuNe Forums > Ground & Other Ops Forums > ATC Issues
Reload this Page >

ATC work/life balance

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.

ATC work/life balance

Old 10th Dec 2014, 11:43
  #1 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Dec 2014
Location: united kingdom
Posts: 2
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
ATC work/life balance

Hello, I am new to this thread and am considering a career in air traffic control, I've been looking into it the past few weeks. So far, I've reached a basic understanding of the training involved, shift work, etc ^.^ I know even the application stages are tough, let alone passing training and getting validated, but I wanted to know the lifestyle of work as an ATC (with he NATS, ideally) before applying nevertheless, if it's no bother. I love the idea of quick/critical thinking for a living, but admittedly, I've no burning passion for aviation in general, as of yet.

Like, how is the social scene in the workplace? are there lots of colleagues; Is there a great platform to make friends? My interests are a bit dorky and include gaming, films, science, etc - would I fit in well? :I

Also, Is there room for family life as an ATC? or does the job lend itself towards becoming a married-to-my-job type. As far as I can tell, most ATCs seem to have had a family before entering the profession and adapted their life accordingly. Is it common for ATCs to meet their spouse and start a family *After validation? I'd hate to doom myself to eternity as a bachelor, with a life that revolves around my job.


Thank you in advance!
sparklesandsweat is offline  
Old 11th Dec 2014, 12:26
  #2 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: Seaworld
Posts: 63
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Work/ life balance is generally pretty good. Whichever unit you work at (I'm talking NATS here but I'm sure it's the same elsewhere), you will get a decent amount of time off from work. At some of the smaller units, the shift pattern might be a little more restrictive but we generally get a good amount of annual leave to use too. I've worked at a smaller unit and now at a larger one and there are pros and cons either way.

Doubt very much you'd be committing yourself to a lonely life of bachelorhood if you hadn't found anyone beforehand! As said, there is plenty of time off to do whatever it is that you do and if you work at the larger units, than there are plenty of people to socialise with. The smaller units, from my own experience, can give you a decent social life too. It all depends what you make of it all really.

Whilst I have a bit of an interest in aviation, it's not the be all and end all. It'll make the job just that bit more interesting if you are interested in it, but rest assured there are many people that I work with at either end of the scale. Those that are on the lookout for certain aircraft registrations and those that couldn't care less about aircraft, as long as they take them on their holidays.

Good luck.
Traffic is... is offline  
Old 11th Dec 2014, 12:47
  #3 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Berkshire, UK
Age: 78
Posts: 8,268
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
During my 31 years working in the London area I averaged about 180 days work per year. By juggling leave and public holidays and rostered days off one could achieve over a dozen fortnights off per year. Also, by taking no leave during summer and thanks to the flexibility of my colleagues I was several times able to be away from work for 6 weeks for overseas holidays.

The work can be intense but there are adequate mandatory breaks to relax. On a typical morning duty from 7am-2pm one would expect to work for around 3-4 hours. Less when things are quiet, more when it's busy.

I was always a "family" man so my time at home was very important and I had plenty of time with my wife and children. In no way would I ever have become "married" to the job. That's for fools!

After 31 years I retired at age 58 and live comfortably on a good pension.

Good luck for the future....
HEATHROW DIRECTOR is offline  
Old 11th Dec 2014, 16:33
  #4 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: That France
Posts: 251
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Call me a cynic, but which newspaper are you hoping to sell your Pulitzer-winning article to?

If you aren't a journalist, then I'm in error - but ......................
Minesthechevy is offline  
Old 11th Dec 2014, 16:38
  #5 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: May 2013
Location: Earth
Posts: 115
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
You might think you are a bit dorky but we are all 'different' in our own way!

There is plenty of time off. The work can be very intense but by no means all of the time. Socially - well it depends on where you are working. I used to work at the Uk's largest ATC unit and it was not particularly sociable. Some of the smaller units MIGHT be better but can also be cliquey in a "does your face fit" kind of way. ATC is really no different from most other workplaces in that sense

The job is very satisfying and, unlike a lot of other well paid jobs, does not involve compulsory overtime, cancelled leave or a need to take work home. One thing I would point out is that if you want to keep work/life balance do NOT have aspirations to become a manager!
EastofKoksy is offline  
Old 11th Dec 2014, 17:41
  #6 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Scotland
Age: 73
Posts: 113
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I'd like to add a couple of observations here as well.
It is worth noting that you would be very likely to end up working a shift system of some sort - these may not allow you to plan regular social or sporting events outside your working group; i.e. don't expect to be able to go to play football every saturday, or take the kids to tennis/judo/dance class.
However, a regular pattern does allow you to plan ahead to some extent.

And note also that it tends to be a sedentary job; that and years of shift working can have an effect on your health and well-being. In my own later years on shifts, I felt more or less permanently fatigued. Guess it affects different people in different ways.
Nevertheless, I don't regret joining - worked with some great folk in some wonderful places !
Liobian is offline  
Old 11th Dec 2014, 21:32
  #7 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: jersey
Age: 73
Posts: 1,393
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
37 years in ATC & NEVER worked a day in my life !
Good pay, plenty of time off, worked with the "Salt of The Earth", interesting characters (especially the ex RAF WW2 personnel in my early years), plenty of interest, wide variety of interesting work, plenty of travel, retired at 58, unbelievable job satisfaction, more or less your own boss.
What could be better ?
Nothing in my opinion - 37 years of bliss !
kcockayne is offline  
Old 11th Dec 2014, 22:38
  #8 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: Home away from home
Posts: 562
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
If you do end up working for NATS you could be at a unit with under 20 controllers, or you could be at one of the centers with hundreds. These workplaces will have different shift patterns and different pros and cons.

In general I find that I have a lot of time off now compared to when I worked 9-5, however a lot of it is when most people are working. I generally enjoy this as it means I can do my shopping when nobody else is there, I can go to the gym when it's quiet etc. Also it means I spend almost no time in the rush-hour traffic unlike many others.

The downside as said above is that you can't have weekly activities the way many do, although it's not impossible to attend most of them. I have collegues who try to avoid afternoonshifts in order to attend evening-activities, this means they tend to work 4 mornings and 2 nights. At the unit where I work this is often possible, but it depends on your collegues and your workplace.


Would I go back to 9-5? No, the pros for me well outweigh the cons. I would suggest if you're interested that you apply and see how it goes, statistically you will most likely not get in anyway (harsh I know, but those are the numbers) but if you do it's (I think) a great job.
Crazy Voyager is offline  
Old 12th Dec 2014, 01:17
  #9 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Mar 2013
Location: New York Tracon
Age: 55
Posts: 65
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I believe that no matter where, and for who, whether past or present, the great majority of air traffic controllers love our job, and the lifestyle that comes with it.

I work a lot of overtime, and 6 day work weeks due to staffing issues at my particular facility, and I still find plenty of time to spend with my family. If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't change a thing.
N90-EWR is offline  
Old 12th Dec 2014, 19:31
  #10 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Jun 2012
Location: Bedford
Age: 47
Posts: 26
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Times they are a changing.

Sparklesandsweat -provided you are not a journalist….when reading some of the posts here you have to remember that the world of ATC has changed massively in the last few years.Some of the comments though well meaning, have as much relevance to the job today as one of Nelson's Midshipmen has to a Sonar Operator on a Nuclear Sub.
I left 2 years ago and things have changed big time even since then.What is true is that all ATCOs are hugely self-motivated and therefore enjoy doing the job.
When you first start out you only have yourself to worry about.The shift work is not too disruptive and time off and pay seems more than adequate compared to your non-aviation friends.Roll forward as you predict, to having a family and things change.All units vary&it's the luck of the draw where you end up and the ability to get time off when you want or need it.
The reality of the job today is that you will have to consider how you feel about going years without Christmas or New Year off.Accept you will miss some of your children's birthday parties and many other family occasions.Your social life outside of work will be different because you will be working on Saturday night or early Sunday morning when others are having parties.The shift work will eventually take its toll on your health. You have to weigh all these things up against the pay and conditions.
On the plus side you'll get to go shopping with pensioners when everyone else is at work.(Things are less crowded).
The job is unique and interesting.Despite what management want, it is still one that requires a well trained intelligent professional to do it and you'll be working in a high tech occasionally exciting and high pressure environment.Not many people can do the job of an ATCO.
Bear in mind if you start now by the time you finish training you may soon be working on your own in a remote tower facility or in a near silent ops room/tower because the area microphones prevent banter and chat!
Best of luck if you choose to apply.
LeftBlank is offline  
Old 13th Dec 2014, 00:33
  #11 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: May 2005
Location: 50'11N 004' 16W
Posts: 282
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
What's the dit on the area microphone, banter & chat?
ex_matelot is offline  
Old 13th Dec 2014, 07:57
  #12 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Berkshire, UK
Age: 78
Posts: 8,268
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
<<how you feel about going years without Christmas>>

31 years I worked at Heathrow and TC and never worked on a single Christmas Day. Can't be bad.
HEATHROW DIRECTOR is offline  
Old 13th Dec 2014, 08:56
  #13 (permalink)  
Vercingetorix
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
ex_matelot

area microphone, banter & chat?

All RTF and radar is recorded 24/7.

In addition many Ops rooms have CCTV and open mics strategically placed in the room so that everything is monitored and recorded. These recordings are useful in incident investigations, i.e. were the correct number of controllers in situ at the time of any incident, etc.
Very similar ethos to cockpit voice recordings only with the extra of video capability.
 
Old 13th Dec 2014, 09:37
  #14 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Nov 2002
Location: meh
Posts: 662
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
>>31 years I worked at Heathrow and TC and never worked on a single Christmas Day. Can't be bad.<<<

Not bad for you I am sure but 31 times someone else had to and you never once paid the guys back. Certainly not something to boast about.

To the original poster, as demonstrated there are a great number of extremely selfish people you will encounter in the job. Things ranging from the traffic dodgers who drift in a couple of minutes after the hour/half hour offering breaks when every body has already rotated to my personal 'favourite' of the guy who refuses to swap a shift then you turn up for that duty and they are in on overtime.

The job is great fun however with plenty of opportunity to do a great deal of different things that you probably would not without various degrees in different fields. You will also be met with much negativity from dinosaurs who are extremely resistent to change because things were always harder/better/faster/stronger back in the day.

Work/life balance is no different to any other shift working job in ATC. There have been many I have known over the years who have a whole other job on the side from Ferry driver to pool builder to cake decorator.
Good luck.
Plazbot is offline  
Old 13th Dec 2014, 10:08
  #15 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Berkshire, UK
Age: 78
Posts: 8,268
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
<<Not bad for you I am sure but 31 times someone else had to and you never once paid the guys back. Certainly not something to boast about. >>

You don't understand how the system worked!! The staffing levels were greatly reduced over Christmas and a draw took place each year with those happy to work Christmas ticked the appropriate list. A significant number of people actually enjoyed working at Christmas and the Scots would work every Christmas if they just got New Year off. It all worked amicably and everyone got what they wanted. Pay the guys back? I don't understand what you mean?
HEATHROW DIRECTOR is offline  
Old 13th Dec 2014, 10:21
  #16 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Nov 2002
Location: meh
Posts: 662
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Ah, knowing how the system works and working the 'system'. One of the reasons why ATC in its old guise became unsustainable financially for Aviation and is now downsized, privatised and corporatised. The ATCs of today are paying for the rorts of the past. Merry Christmas indeed.
Plazbot is offline  
Old 13th Dec 2014, 11:22
  #17 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: farfaraway
Posts: 162
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
At the units I worked at with one notable exception the Christmas leave allocation was worked out very amicably and was certainly nothing to do with working the system. Basically you could either have Christmas off or New Year off and contrary to what has been said before it wasn't only the "Jocks" who wanted the New Year off. I've been retired for a few years now and maybe I was just lucky to have worked with "grown up" people who bought in to the idea of give and take. Incidentally HD I knew band five units got paid wheelbarrow loads of dosh more than we lesser mortals but all those fortnights off? the most I could work out on a 5 watch came to 7. Work life balance, brilliant job, can't imagine doing anything else.
obwan is offline  
Old 13th Dec 2014, 11:31
  #18 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: The foot of Mt. Belzoni.
Posts: 1,997
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I worked 7 or 8 Christmas Day shifts out of about 30. I quite enjoyed them really. I 'saw the New Year in' in the ops room a couple of times too. Fortunately, we had very good watch management throughout my time there and most people got rosters they were happy with, or if not, certainly the following year.
ZOOKER is offline  
Old 13th Dec 2014, 11:41
  #19 (permalink)  
Vercingetorix
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Christmas day in the workhouse (LATCC), the traffic was always light and to pass the time the daily raffle was initiated.
This raffle consisted of trying to guess the load factor on any given flight. Once all the subs were in, the pilot of said flight was asked "How many Pax on board?" and the subscriber with the nearest number to the correct one was the winner.

Oh what fun.

PLAZBOT.
Ah, knowing how the system works and working the 'system'. One of the reasons why ATC in its old guise became unsustainable financially for Aviation and is now downsized, privatised and corporatised. The ATCs of today are paying for the rorts of the past
Bollocks me old China.
 
Old 13th Dec 2014, 12:41
  #20 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: USA
Age: 65
Posts: 2,182
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
On the Christma s thing.......I remember the Scatcc watch I was on all wanting to do Christmas day . We had a full dinner,secret Santa and double time. There was also virtually no traffic.

When I moved to the airfield side of the house we were usually required only in cases of emergency or something like ambulance flights. That was a case of being on call and was rotated through the holiday season with everyone getting some time with families (when possible). At the end of my career I (as Watch Manager) and having no kids usually was on standby.

Over 36 years it has changed dramatically. ..but I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

Plazbot......give it a bloody rest.
eastern wiseguy is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Terms of Service - Do Not Sell or Share My Personal Information

Copyright © 2023 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use.