I would like to learn more about how the Air Traffic Control system works - are there any resources available which describe the system that would be suitable for a beginner or student?


Another good reference would be the training materials for VATUSA. This is part of an online system called VATSIM where people both fly and provide ATC virtually.

Although some of it does not apply to real operations (and of course none of it should be actual operations), it still covers real procedures based on the actual rules.

The basic guides do a good job of providing an introduction to the basic concepts, but the more advanced stuff is less helpful.

Other regions have their own VATSIM organizations, if you prefer a region other than the US.

In addition to the materials available, participation is also great for learning. Through VATSIM you can get training on the materials and then get hands-on experience working with (virtual) traffic.

  • $\begingroup$ Good, I hope this will help others too. Thank for your help and sharing useful links with me. Appreciated. $\endgroup$ – Shaharil Ahmad Jun 5 '14 at 12:01
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    $\begingroup$ VATSIM is also a good source of practice - some of what you learn isn't applicable to working live traffic, but much of it is. $\endgroup$ – voretaq7 Jun 5 '14 at 16:20
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    $\begingroup$ I'm a former VATSIM controller with a relative who is real-world ATC in ZTL (Atlanta Center). I've shown him VATSIM and also visited ZTL with him. He was impressed by the procedures and phraseology of the VATSIM controllers. And during my visit to ZTL, while I would never pretend to be able to do their job or even in the same ballpark as the real-world guys and gals, I can say an awful lot was familiar to me. Because of my VATSIM experience, I knew exactly what was going on. $\endgroup$ – wadesworld Jun 9 '14 at 14:18
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    $\begingroup$ @wadesworld Anecdotally the phraseology of VATSIM controllers (and pilots) tends to be better than what I hear on the radio flying around New York :) $\endgroup$ – voretaq7 Jun 20 '14 at 16:59
  • $\begingroup$ @voretaq7 You're right. Real-world controllers and pilots are actually a bit more lax about phraseology since they just need to get the job done and have bigger concerns than whether word 4 in the sentence is exactly what is written in the manual. $\endgroup$ – wadesworld Jul 8 '14 at 23:06

The first two places I would start would be the FAA's Air Traffic Control landing page, and Chapter 4 of the Aeronautical Information Manual which deals with air traffic control (and is generally the level of information student pilots are expected to be familiar with).

While these references are both for the US/FAA air traffic control system there are strong similarities among the systems in most countries (the ones with the greatest variation would be countries where the military handles air traffic control).

If you're looking for more advanced information pretty much all of the operational and training manuals the FAA uses are available to the public. These are likely of more interest to someone studying to become an air traffic controller - the information in them is substantially more technical and "job-oriented" than what's presented in the resources above.

  • $\begingroup$ Nice one, currently I'm going to be interview soon for an ATC job. Had no experience or so whatever about ATC specifically aviation. So I need help to know a little bit better about ATC and where usually people will go about to learn about ATC in aviation community cause Google only populate the popular site, cause I'd have found some good one through my friends and others. Well thank you very much. $\endgroup$ – Shaharil Ahmad Jun 5 '14 at 11:57

The Air Traffic Basics course is the first information new FAA controllers are exposed to, and it is available to the public. This is a comprehensive introduction to background aviation knowledge from a controller's perspective.

Beyond that and getting into phraseology, there is FAA JO 7110.65. This document is THE standard for U.S. air traffic control procedures. Everything controllers say comes from that book.


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