Imagine keeping airplanes flying in the right directions with plenty of space around them, advising pilots of all weather conditions, and generally being an unsung hero of the sky every single day. That’s the well-earned title for women working as flight service specialists, also known as air traffic controllers. The field is open to young women with a suitable temperament and education. It’s a “never-a-dull-moment” career for many amazing individuals.
Young women with a high threshold for stressful situations can put that calm demeanor to good use as flight service specialists. If you’re able to retain incredible focus and concentration, remain calm in sometimes highly tense situations and enjoy being totally immersed in your job -- sometimes working days, evenings, weekends and holidays -- you may have the necessary skills to succeed in this demanding occupation.
A chief responsibility of flight service specialists is to keep pilots advised of all weather conditions. To do so, they review weather charts and weather service reports to determine visibility, air stability, cloud formations and any other weather related circumstance that may affect flying. Flight service specialists are also required to inform pilots of weather necessitating a "Visual Flight Rule" or "Flight Not Recommended." Depending on whether you work as a tower specialist or a radar approach/departure specialist, other responsibilities of the job can vary. A tower specialist directs planes on the runway, while a radar approach/departure specialist ensures that planes are flying the accepted distance from each other when they’re within 40 miles of the airport in any direction.
Flight service specialists also maintain a database of flight plans that are used when search-and-rescue operations are initiated to recover missing or overdue planes, and those in distress. According to Federal Aviation Administration procedures, fight service specialists notify the air traffic control center with information relevant to pinpointing the location of in-flight aircraft that isn't easily found or experiencing problems. This information includes radar readings, the time of the last transmission received, last reported position, number of persons on board and fuel status.
Your flight service specialist career begins with an education to secure a two- or four-year degree from a school that’s been certified by the FAA. You must complete training provided by the FAA academy. Many flight service specialists are educated from experiences in the military. Before being considered for employment, you’ll be required to pass an FAA pre-employment test.
2016 Salary Information for Air Traffic Controllers
Air traffic controllers earned a median annual salary of $122,410 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, air traffic controllers earned a 25th percentile salary of $84,730, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $149,230, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 24,900 people were employed in the U.S. as air traffic controllers.
- I Fly America: Preflight Weather – What to Expect from Flight Service
- NATCHA: National Air Traffic Controllers Association: Flight Service Specialists
- U.S. Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Air Traffic Controllers
- NAV Canada: Take Charge: The Planner and the Advisor: Flight Service Specialists
- U.S. Department of Transportation: Federal Administration Administration: Section 3: Overdue Aircraft
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Air Traffic Controllers
- Career Trend: Air Traffic Controllers
Michelle Reynolds has been writing about business, careers and art since 1993. She was the publisher of a newsletter, “Working Parents Monthly," as well as a graphic design guidebook. Reynolds also served as human-resources director at a resort/spa for eight years. She is an artist and promotes the arts and other artists through ElegantArtisan.com, a website she developed and maintains.