Guide to becoming an Air Traffic Controller or Dispatcher

Air Traffic Control
& the FAA Aircraft Dispatcher Certificate

What does an Air Traffic Controller do?

The job of air traffic controllers is to assist pilots in accomplishing their flight in a safe and efficient manner.

What are the different specialties of Air Traffic Controllers?

  • Airport Traffic Control Tower (ATCT): These individuals are responsible for directing the aircraft on the ground at the airport and in the air in the near vicinity of the airport.
  • Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON): The ATC professionals in the TRACON are responsible for managing the air traffic as it arrives and departs the airport, usually within a 30 to 50 mile radius of the airport. This is done using radar systems to identify and locate individual aircraft.
  • Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC): People working in the ARTCC direct aircraft as they travel cross country from one point to another. These aircraft are usually monitored using radar where practical.

What are the qualifications to be hired as an FAA Air Traffic Controller?

More information in 14 CFR Part 65 Subpart B

  • FAA Medical Certificate (very similar to a class II medical Flight Certificate).
  • Must be 18 and no older than 31.
  • Be of good moral character.
  • Read and speak English without accent or impediment of speech that would interfere with two-way radio conversation.
  • Complete and "pass" the FAA's Bio-data assessment questionnaire
  • Complete and pass the FAA's AT-SAT assessment
  • Attend the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City

What is an aircraft dispatcher?

The aircraft dispatcher, along with the captain of the flight, share the responsibility and decision making to ensure the results of the flight are safe and efficient.

What does the job of a dispatcher look like?

  • Where do they work? - Aircraft dispatchers generally work in the airline operations center or control center for the airline.
  • What licenses or certificates are required to work as an aircraft dispatcher? -To act as an aircraft dispatcher, an individual must hold an FAA Aircraft Dispatcher certificate. More information on this can be found in 14 CFR 65 Subpart C.
  • What does an aircraft dispatcher do? - The dispatcher uses several resources, including weather, aircraft, and weight and balance data, to develop a flight plan that ensures a flight will reach its destination safely, while being as efficient as possible.

What are the qualifications to earn an FAA Aircraft Dispatcher Certificate?

  • Be able to read, speak, write and understand the English language.
  • Have at least 2 years of applicable experience in the last 3 years OR have successfully completed an approved aircraft dispatcher course.
  • Pass a required knowledge test.
  • Pass a required practical test.
  • Be at least 23 years of age (the tests can be taken when the individual is 21 years of age)