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ATCO licencing back in the, relative, day

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ATCO licencing back in the, relative, day

Old 15th Aug 2019, 09:26
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ATCO licencing back in the, relative, day

Hi, I was wondering if anyone could shed some light on the process of obtaining an ATCO licence back in the 80’s/90’s for someone not attached to a company.

Would I be right in thinking it was similar to how the FISO licencing currently works? i.e. one self studies nav, met, aviation law & procedures and goes off to aviation house to sit the written examinations to obtain a student licence. Once that’s obtained, you go to a unit for a period of on the job training. At the end of which and after a successful board, you obtained your full licence and rating in which ever discipline you had received the training in?

If anyone could shed some light, that would be appreciated.

Many thanks,

Nick

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Old 15th Aug 2019, 11:30
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​​Back in the 80’s (maybe 90’s as well) you could roll up at your nearest ATCU with a tin of biscuits or packet of fags for your favourite ATCO and “plug-in”. He or she didn’t need to be an OJTI either. We found some talented staff that way and trained them up (a guy used to run courses from the boot of his Volvo) and they became very successful long standing members of the ATC team. These days it’s different and despite being ATSAs for a few years and doing the ATC aptitude assessments, we’ve had less success whereby members of staff have achieved the student ATCO licence but have been unable to validate. At great expense and time on the part of the company.
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Old 15th Aug 2019, 11:35
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As far as I can recall, there were 2 main ways of getting a full licence. Either a NATS cadetship or self study usually supported by a non NATS unit. Either way you would apply for a student licence and study for the rating (tower/approach/radar/area etc) . This could be a rating course with classroom and simulator training or self study, usually backed up with OJT and purchasing simulator time to prepare for the practical. You then take written papers, oral board and simulator test to get the rating. The rating then has to be validated for the unit following OJT and examination.
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Old 15th Aug 2019, 12:53
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There was another way. A few 'non state units', as they were known, would employ ATCAs/ATSAs as trainee ATCOs. They would pay for them to do the courses, either at Bournemouth or with IAL. Luton was one, certainly on the courses I did there was one from Leeds and a couple from Jersey.
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Old 15th Aug 2019, 13:36
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Originally Posted by NW07 View Post
Hi, I was wondering if anyone could shed some light on the process of obtaining an ATCO licence back in the 80’s/90’s for someone not attached to a company.

Would I be right in thinking it was similar to how the FISO licencing currently works? i.e. one self studies nav, met, aviation law & procedures and goes off to aviation house to sit the written examinations to obtain a student licence. Once that’s obtained, you go to a unit for a period of on the job training. At the end of which and after a successful board, you obtained your full licence and rating in which ever discipline you had received the training in?

If anyone could shed some light, that would be appreciated.

Many thanks,

Nick
Before RGAT (Review Group on ATC Training) recommendations were implimented, you could self study for the written exams then take the practical at a place of your choice if you could find a unit which would allow you to train for it; Southampton did this by training their own employees who had a tower rating on radar then sending them to Bournemouth to take the exams.
Since RGAT, you MUST complete an approved course at a school or college which has been approved by the CAA.
There were also 'unlicensed' ATCOs before the FISO regulations were implimented in the '80s; old Reg who used to do Blackbushe Tower in the '70s was unlicensed but used ATCO phraseology in the days before the CAA and nobody seemed to object; likewise I believe civil ATCOs at Biggin were the same in that era (but I could be wrong about that).
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Old 16th Aug 2019, 09:41
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Many thanks for your replies. Surprising to hear that if one had worked at the unit as an assistant for some time and achieved a student licence, that they still struggled to validate. I could understand it more if they were completely new to the unit, especially a busy one.

Chevvron, yes I believe Biggin did have unlicensed ATCO’s as well as Hamble. I wonder what the route was to that? I presume in those days there was no air ground communication service? So I guess, before FISO’s came in, the only options were licenced/unlicened ATCO’s or nothing, did we even have safetycom then?

Thanks,

Nick

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Old 16th Aug 2019, 14:33
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In the mid 80s ,I believe some of the instructors from the college of ATC,either in their spare time,or perhaps following retirement used to do some training leading to TWR/APP licence & ratings.Maybe this was the 'back of a Volvo' scheme alluded to in post#2.At least one of the RAF controllers I knew at Eastern Radar obtained his CAA licence this way. Think he went on to work at Warton.
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Old 16th Aug 2019, 14:44
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NW07,even after going through the CATC course and gaining all the ratings,quite a few did not validate when they arrived at LATCC.
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Old 16th Aug 2019, 14:59
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Not unusual. The chop rate at Heathrow reached 80% at one time.
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Old 16th Aug 2019, 15:05
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The chop rate at Heathrow reached 80% at one time.
Not something to be proud of.
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Old 16th Aug 2019, 15:19
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Originally Posted by NW07 View Post
Many thanks for your replies. Surprising to hear that if one had worked at the unit as an assistant for some time and achieved a student licence, that they still struggled to validate. I could understand it more if they were completely new to the unit, especially a busy one.

Chevvron, yes I believe Biggin did have unlicensed ATCO’s as well as Hamble. I wonder what the route was to that? I presume in those days there was no air ground communication service? So I guess, before FISO’s came in, the only options were licenced/unlicened ATCO’s or nothing, did we even have safetycom then?

Thanks,

Nick
Hamble only had licensed ATCOs. I started my career there as an ATCA, got the practical time in and took the licence Technical/TWR/APP exams before moving on to greater things. It did help that I had on my doorstep the CAT groundschool and all the help that I could ever wish for to get MET & NAV under my belt. Never did understand why we had to do CPL standard NAV plotting as part of the NAV exam. The NAV plotting exam was the last time that I ever had to use that skill.

They did come up with an innovation pre-ATIS days, to have non ATCOs provide departure information rather than clog up the TWR frequency. With at its peak doing 100,000 movments per year the TWR frequency was quite a busy place.
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Old 16th Aug 2019, 15:44
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Originally Posted by HEATHROW DIRECTOR View Post
Not unusual. The chop rate at Heathrow reached 80% at one time.
That is not a statistic I would be proud of if I was involved in training. There is no way you could be unlucky in a unit to get that amount of unsatisfactory students through the door, that sounds more like poor training techniques and controllers instructing that didn't know what they were doing. Wonder what the modern day pass rate is both at Heathrow and across other units?
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Old 16th Aug 2019, 18:15
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Originally Posted by HEATHROW DIRECTOR View Post
Not unusual. The chop rate at Heathrow reached 80% at one time.
Amazing that they validated me then!!!!!
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Old 16th Aug 2019, 20:32
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Didn't money change hands B?!! I don't want to get involved in discussions - I'm nearly 75 and glad to be out of ATC now.
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Old 17th Aug 2019, 06:07
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Originally Posted by NW07 View Post
Chevvron, yes I believe Biggin did have unlicensed ATCO’s as well as Hamble. I wonder what the route was to that? I presume in those days there was no air ground communication service? So I guess, before FISO’s came in, the only options were licenced/unlicened ATCO’s or nothing, did we even have safetycom then?

Thanks,

Nick
There was no ROCC in those days; according to Reg at Blackbushe, he just started doing the radio one day (after Heathrow Director who was a licenced ATCO, had been 'discharged' by the owner of the airfield) using ATC phraseology. The Southern Regional examiner based at Heston (John Sharman) was a frequent visitor to Blackbushe and never raised any objection.
In the '70s, NATCS (predecessor of NATS) had its own FISO training system for its H & I airfields; the tels officer was supposed to be trained to carry out RTF should the ATCO Manager not be available. I'm not sure if any sort of licence or certificate of competence was issued for this; presumably it all changed when FISO Licencing was introduced and unlicenced ATCOs banned but I'm not sure when this was, sometime about 1980 I think.

Last edited by chevvron; 17th Aug 2019 at 18:22.
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Old 17th Aug 2019, 09:07
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I'm sure the older Heathrow ATCOs will remember the radar simulator that was in the old tower. I think it went or was replaced sometime in the 90s? Did anyone here do their 'non-state' APP & APP Radar there on the old Hurn Synthetic or Seaton zones?
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Old 17th Aug 2019, 15:24
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Quite a few ex-RAF controllers obtained their civil licenses in the 80's using what was know as' The Car Boot College'.
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Old 17th Aug 2019, 16:23
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Possibly one of the reasons for the high failure rate at EGLL in the past was that you had to validate both in the Tower and Approach. Single validations were not countenanced.
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Old 17th Aug 2019, 17:00
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Originally Posted by DeeGee62 View Post
I'm sure the older Heathrow ATCOs will remember the radar simulator that was in the old tower. I think it went or was replaced sometime in the 90s? Did anyone here do their 'non-state' APP & APP Radar there on the old Hurn Synthetic or Seaton zones?
Could be wrong,but I seem to remember going there once from LATCC,where they had it configured for area radar training,long before they had the simulator at WD.This would have been around 80/81.
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Old 17th Aug 2019, 17:07
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That would be right, we used to do some of the mediator training. I'd forgotten that.
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