What's ATC Like?

Did you ever play Tetris? That's the electronic game in which various sized and shaped blocks appear at the top of a container and fall toward the bottom. Your job is to orient the block to fit a space below as well as position the block to go into that space. The beginner's level is pretty easy and it gets progressively harder. Also, as you fill up the space at the bottom, you have effectively less time to orient the objects as they appear.

Air Traffic Control is something like that—with a couple of huge differences—first, there's no Pause button in ATC. When the airplanes show up, you have to put them where they belong. Period. There's no backup, there's no stopping the clock, there's no tele-transporter. Second, if you let one of those blocks hit the wrong place, people will die. The stakes are enormous. It's a deadly serious enterprise.

But, if you're one of the few with the tools to be able to do it, there are few jobs in life more satisfying. I've often referred to it as the world's greatest video game. I'll have more insights into what those tools might be in other places on this site as I weave my tale of air traffic control in four decades. And this site is a work in progress, so don't visit just once—I have tons of material to convert and post. Please be patient.

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Last updated: 22 March 2009