There are a lot of frequently asked questions about becoming an air traffic controller. Some of them are from people considering becoming an ATC while others are based on curiosity and rumors.
In this article we’ll take a look at some common questions people have about being an air traffic controller and provide answers from experts working in the industry.
Do Air Traffic Controllers Mentally Wear Out Over Time?
Being an air traffic controller is a very stressful and demanding job. They work a lot of hours, have a lot of responsibility, and face a high level of pressure every day.
Due to how tough the job is, one common question that people have is if air traffic controllers mentally wear out over time.
No, there is no evidence that shows that air traffic controllers have any negative long term effects due to their job.
We researched this to look for evidence of any cognitive or other mental decline that affects air traffic controllers more than those who retire from any other job and were unable to find any proof that this is the case.
Like many stressful jobs, those who do the job for a long period of time tend to adjust to the pressure and stress over time. After a while, they learn to manage the day-to-day and can handle the job just fine. If anything, these professionals are even more calm and cool under pressure than those not used to having such an intense job.
Who Do Air Traffic Controllers Work For?
Air traffic controllers are employed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
It’s a common misconception that air traffic controllers work for the airlines or even the airports they are located at. This is not the case.
In order to have unified standards and an organized structure throughout the aviation industry, they are all hired, trained, and managed by the FAA. The FAA also sets all requirements for the job.
This is a beneficial relationship for the ATC’s as well as the aviation industry and passengers for several reasons.
- Passengers are safe due to their being an organized structure with standards across the entire country instead of everyone doing their own thing
- ATC’s get the benefit of great standardized training and the benefits of being federal employees
- Airlines and the rest of the aviation industry then have one less complex role to fill and can instead focus on what they do best
Overall, having all air traffic controllers work for the FAA is a great situation for the aviation industry as a whole.
Do Air Traffic Controllers Have Shorter Lifespans?
This is another urban legend when it comes to air traffic controllers. People tend to think that the job is so stressful and demanding that air traffic controllers have shorter lifespans in retirement than other careers.
No, air traffic controllers do not have shorter lifespans than everyone else. There is no evidence that shows they die younger than any other profession.
While the job is in fact stressful, ATC’s not only retire younger than other professions but also go on to be just as happy and healthy as other retirees.
Can Air Traffic Controllers Have Beards?
Yes, air traffic controllers are permitted to have facial hair of their choosing.
This is a common question since much of the aviation industry does have rules around things like beards and facials hair.
A common reason for these restrictions is what airlines refer to is appearance standards. They tend to have strict guidelines to make sure all employees that interact with passengers/customers have a professional and inoffensive appearance.
For pilots these rules are also affected by their need to be able to use certain safety equipment that a beard can get in the way of.
Air traffic controllers don’t have to worry about either of these issues. As mentioned above, they are not employees of any airline but instead work for the FAA. Thus, any airline appearance standards don’t apply to air traffic controllers.
And as far as safety goes – ATC’s operate computers, telephones and other communications equipment that isn’t affected by beards or facial hair.
So, if you have a beard and are interested in becoming and air traffic controller you have nothing to worry about.
Do Air Traffic Controllers Wear Uniforms or have a Dress Code?
Air traffic controllers do not have a set uniform.
While there isn’t a set uniform they have to wear to wear every day, they do have a general dress code according to the collective bargaining agreement negotiated by the union that represents air traffic controllers.
That dress code is as follows:
“Members of the bargaining unit shall groom and attire themselves in a neat, clean manner that will not erode public confidence in the professionalism of the bargaining unit workforce”
This is typically considered similar to what corporate America would refer to as “business casual” meaning that you have to look professional but there is no requirement for a formal uniform or suit/tie. This often means that ATC’s wear polo style shirts, khakis, and other informal clothing. At the same time, they are not to wear very casual clothing like sweatpants, flip flops, or tank tops.
Considering how much more formal other areas in the aviation industry are, this is another great benefit of being an air traffic controller.
Can Air Traffic Controllers Dye their Hair?
Yes, air traffic controllers can dye their hair any color they want.
As mentioned above, ATC’s do not have to abide by the appearance standards that airlines have for pilots, flight attendants, and other employees since they work for the FAA.
The FAA does not have specific rules about hair dye and colors since your hair does not in any way affect your ability to perform the job effectively. There are reports and experiences from current air traffic controllers from their facilities that people have all kinds of hair styles and colors. Some have mohawks, some have blue or red hair, etc.
You can have your hair any way you want as an air traffic controller.
Can Air Traffic Controllers Have Piercings?
Yes, air traffic controllers can have piercings.
There is no FAA rule against an air traffic controller having facial, ear, or any other piercings. Much like facial hair, hair dye, and other things that you can do to change your appearance, it is completely up to you.
The reason for this is simple. Having body piercings does not in any way affect your ability to perform the job functions of the role safely.
We hope this article answers questions you’ve always had regarding being an air traffic controller.
Do you have a random question about the air traffic controller career? Feel free to send us an email at email@example.com and we’ll get it answered!
If you’re interested in becoming an air traffic controller, visit the FAA’s site to learn more.