At the helm of flight control

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 February, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 February, 2009, 12:00am

Take on a job in which you make a difference - ensuring that airplanes take off and land safely


Air traffic control is all about communication, teamwork, planning and decision- making.

A lot of the job is reacting fast to ever-changing situations, so it is important to adapt to changes and make decisions quickly and accurately.

It is essential to have good English skills because all communications on the job are in English.


Certain academic criteria have to be met in order to get an interview for the job. You need two passes or above in the A-levels.

In terms of the HKCEE, you will need Level 3 or above in three subjects including English, and mathematics, geography, physics or computer studies; and Level 2 or above in Chinese.

Candidates who meet the basic academic requirements are eligible to sit an aptitude test. They also have to undergo a series of interviews before being employed as a student air traffic control officer.

Average salary

The salary of a student air traffic control officer is around HK$15,000 a month, but it can go up to more than HK$100,000 as you move up.

Work prospects

As a student officer, you have to train locally as well as overseas to become a qualified professional.

Lessons include navigation, meteorology, telecommunications, aviation laws and air traffic control procedures. Student officers also take flying lessons in Australia and receive training in Britain to broaden their knowledge of the business.

After returning from overseas training, officers receive on-the-job training. Then they will take a test to get the Associated Air Traffic Control rating.

After that they can be promoted to officer III.The job of an air traffic control officer is to ensure the safe passage of aircraft from take-off to landing.

Officers deal with five different positions: ground-movement control, air-movement control, clearance delivery, zone control and flight information.

An officer can be sent to different positions by the supervisor during the course of a shift.

Long-term prospects

It takes about five years of experience and further training for an officer III to progress to an officer II.

As you move up, your work will involve more and more management duties. If you are good at it, you stand a good chance of being promoted.

But, of course, not everyone gets promoted to the top. Some people retire as an Officer II.

Where to apply

Air traffic control officer is a government job.

Check out the Civil Service Bureau website ( and the Civil Aviation Department website ( for information about vacancies.

A day in the life of an air traffic control officer

Air traffic control officers are at work around the clock. There are morning, afternoon and night shifts. Before starting each shift, I have to attend a daily briefing to gather the latest information on the weather, airspace restrictions, work in progress on the airfield and any special activities so as to get ready for the job.

We get a 30-minute break every two hours. The job of an air traffic controller is quite demanding and short breaks are necessary if we are to stay alert and concentrate for the duration of the shift.

We work on a 10-day cycle, and we have to cover all three shifts over the course of the cycle with four days of rest.