Air Traffic Controllers Handling More Than One Airport

This is how the air traffic controllers at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport handle thunderstorms.

Directing air traffic is serious business, especially for Atlanta.  It is, after all, the busiest airport in the world.  In September, Atlanta reported 7.7 million passengers moving through and according to the Airports Council International there were 94.4 million travelers in 2013.

Moving those little blue dots around the scary red blobs looks like a beautifully improvised dance.  But the art of the air traffic controller does have its costs.  Stress is a well documented part of the job; Business Insider calls it one of the most stressful jobs out there.  You can imagine what it would be like to have to deal with one airport.  What if an ATC had to juggle multiple airports?

Peter Ahl, head of Saab’s commercial aerostructure department, told the Wall Street Journal that new remote tower technology could allow ATCs to direct up to three airports at a time:

What we see in the future is that one air-traffic controller will manage several airports

Earlier in November, an small airstrip in northern Sweden received government approval to become the first remotely operated airport.  The strip, in the town of Örnsköldsvik, will soon be directed from ATCs over 100 miles away with the help of Saab’s “Remote Tower” technology.

Saab describes how the remote towers will work on their website:

The Saab Remote Tower product suite includes High Definition cameras and Pan-Tilt-Zoom cameras, surveillance and meteorological sensors, microphones, signal light guns and other devices for deployment at the airport. Data from these sensors are sent to a Remote Tower Center (RTC) to be displayed in real time.

A controller at the RTC has the tools, in addition to live video, to operate the airport in a similar manner as he or she would in a traditional Air Traffic Control Tower

There are video games out there like Flight Control HD that simulate an ATC’s job.   If you’re considering a career in the tower, download the app and try to handle the craziness of directing all the landings.

Once you’ve mastered the game on one device, download it on another and try to direct multiple airpots simultaneously.  That’ll help you  appreciate the work that real ATCs do.

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