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Air Traffic Controller

Typical Day

Benny Jetson's alarm clock goes off at 4am. He momentarily thinks about hitting the snooze button, but changes his mind. He needs at least two hours to wake up before going into work. His shift starts at 6am. Because air traffic controllers are needed 24 hours a day (not the same guy for that whole stretch, fortunately), it takes major string pulling to get a decent shift. Benny hopes that he's working with his usual crowd. Working with new hires or controllers he’s never worked with adds stress to his life. Like he doesn’t already have enough. His supervisor, Larry, is waiting for him at the door of the briefing room. Larry is a stern man with 20-plus years of air traffic experience. As a former military pilot, Larry thrives on order and perfectly polished shoes.

Not all traffic controllers are former pilots. In fact, most controllers wouldn’t know the inside of a flight deck from a joystick in an arcade. How the heck do they know where planes should fly? Pilots file their flight plans with the FAA before they fly. These plans include the number of passenger, possible airports they can land due to an emergency, their flight route, and weather conditions to name a few items. These flight plans must be filed if the plane is flown under IFR (Instrument Flight Rules). The IFR is a number of regulations that civil airplanes must follow. Air traffic controllers use flight plans to predict what pilots are doing and where they should be going.

Larry starts the daily briefing with new information about the weather. There is a chance of afternoon showers. Furthermore, Larry updates the other air traffic controllers on any new rules and procedures before they sign in for the day. Benny picks up his nametag and headset. He sets his coffee at his AOR (area of responsibility). That's a cute little acronym they make up for you when you don't get an office.