What Does an Army Air Traffic Controller Do?

Lori Kilchermann

An army air traffic controller provides the same services as a civilian air traffic controller on both established airfields as well as on improvised, combat-type airfields. Maintaining a visual connection with helicopters, propeller and jet aircraft as well as keeping a log of all activities can be a very stressful situation for an army air traffic controller. Keeping control over the airspace at and around the airfield as well as directing all flight traffic to avoid accidents is a daily occurrence for an army air traffic controller.

Army air traffic controllers must maintain a visual connection with various kinds of aircraft.
Army air traffic controllers must maintain a visual connection with various kinds of aircraft.

There are many duties common on any given day as an army air traffic controller, from landing aircraft to monitoring all of the aircraft in a particular grid or airspace. In certain situations, an army air traffic controller may be responsible for directing several aircraft at the same time, positioning and directing them without allowing the crafts to get too close to each other. In an emergency situation, the controller might be responsible for clearing all the air traffic away from the airfield so as to allow an emergency aircraft to land or take off.

Controlling aircraft is not the only duty of the aircraft controller at a military base, as weather conditions and the condition of the airfield are also areas of concern for a controller. Monitoring the wind direction and speed is tantamount to the controller directing flights using particular airstrips to take off and land. One area that differs greatly from a civilian air traffic controller's job is the need for the army air traffic controller to be able to identify enemy aircraft. This is often a difficult task given the technology that exists, such as cloaking devices, stealth capabilities and radar jamming devices. Monitoring radio traffic to detect any emergency situation and then briefing coworkers or relief workers on the day's happenings are also job requirements of an army air traffic controller.

In some combat situations, the army air traffic controller might be called upon to actually scout a site for a mobile airfield. This requires expert knowledge of the wind currents, terrain and man-made obstacles in the area. Aside from air traffic control abilities, the controller must also control ground traffic in and around the area of the runways to avoid any contact or collisions between ground traffic and aircraft. The training of less-experienced military personnel is also a task taken on by the more experienced controllers at a given airfield.

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