Air Traffic Control

Air Traffic Controllers (ATC) has one of the most stressful jobs on the planet! Their job is to keep thousands of aircraft, sometimes travelling at hundreds of kilometres per hour from colliding into each other. If you have a passion for aviation, have the ability to work- and keep calm under pressure, like to work with people and won’t mind working shifts you might want to think about a career as an air traffic controller.

What do Air Traffic Controllers do?

There are different types of air traffic controllers controlling aircraft in different airspaces and stages of flight. They all have the same basic objective:

  • to prevent collisions under aircraft in the sky or on the ground and to keep them flying in safe headings, altitudes and airspeeds;
  • to inform pilots about navigation, weather and airport information;
  • to alert search and rescue services in cases of emergency.

Air traffic controllers in the tower of an aerodrome are in visual and radio contact with aircraft in the aerodrome’s airspace. They hand out taxi, landing and take-off instructions and at some larger airports, instruct movements of ground vehicles. Approach controllers controls approaching and departing traffic as well as en-route control. They also hand out flight information and advice. Approach controllers are also in radio contact with the aircraft in their assigned airspace but rely on radar and other electronic equipment rather than visual contact to control air traffic.

Another career in Air Traffic Services is in the Aeronautical Information System (AIS). The objective of the AIS is to collect information to keep the Aeronautical Information Publications (AIP), Aeronautical Information Circulars (AIC), Notice to Airmen (NOTAMs) and Pre-Flight Information Bulletins (PIB) up to date.

Requirements for becoming an Air Traffic Controller

The Air Traffic and Navigation Service (ATNS) offer air traffic controller as well as Aeronautical Information Management Officer training through a bursary programme. Their Aviation Training Academy is situated in Bonaero Park, at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. More information about the course and bursaries can be found on their website.

Educational Requirements

It is required that you should hold a National Senior Certificate (Grade 12) with mathematics and English (Higher Grade: D Symbol or Standard Grade: C Symbol or level 4) as a passed subject. It would be advantageous to have passed Physical Science and Geography. You should be able to read, write, speak and understand the English Language. A compulsory English Language proficiency test will have to be completed during the course.

Medical Requirements

An air traffic controller should pass an SACAA approved Class III or IV medical examination. It is important that the candidate should have good eyesight (with/without glasses/contact lenses) and hearing. You can go to a certified Aviation Medical Examiner for an examination to see if you are fit to be an ATC.

Personal Requirements

It would be an advantage if you:

  • have the ability to stay calm and keep focused under constant pressure;
  • take good responsibility;
  • have the ability to stay alert and focused even if there are not much going on around you;
  • have the ability to create a three-dimensional visualisation from two-dimensional information;
  • clear voice.


Depending on experience, air traffic controllers can earn anything between R6 000 and R40 000 per month. 

ATC Checklist

  • You must be at least 18 years of age.
  • Must be a South African citizen.
  • National Senior Certificate or equivalent with:
    • English; High Grade: D Symbol or Standard Grade: C Symbol or level 4
    • Pass Mathematics
    • Physical Science and Geography would be an advantage
  • You must pass a SACAA approved Class III or Class IV medical examination.
  • You must be able to speak English fluently and pass an English Proficiency Test.

Please feel free to contact us should you require more information.