Interesting Facts About Air Traffic Control

Why do air traffic control towers have slanted windows?

No matter where you fly to or from in the world, one thing is the same at each airport you visit; the air traffic control tower. Even if you have not actually seen a tower in the flesh, you would have, no doubt, seen one on the news or in a film. No doubt you would have noticed how the design is almost exactly the same on each tower you’ve seen, with one particular constant – the windows.

The windows in the towers are always dark and they are always slanted towards the base of the tower too. A lot of people mistakenly believe the windows are like this in order to protect pilots flying into land and taking off, from the reflection of sunlight. However, they are in fact positioned in this manner to help those working in the tower.

Those working in air traffic control need to be protected from all distractions so they can just focus on their job. The tilted glass helps keep them from any such distractions by directing any wayward light away from the main section of the tower.

What is the official language of air traffic control?

From 2008, via a ruling made by the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organisation, every single pilot and person working within air traffic control are required to speak English. English is therefore the official language.

This ruling was made as a result of the number of accidents and lives lost due to the large number of communication problems occurring between pilots and air traffic controllers all over the world. Having one official language ensures such problems are eradicated.

Air traffic controllers are not just there to help with domestic flights

A little known fact is that, in a lot of countries all over the globe, those working in air traffic control not only help organise and keep safe domestic flights but they also play a large part in military operations; often playing a security or defensive role. In some cases the military even runs the tower.

When did air traffic control begin?

Who would have thought it would all begin in Croydon, London. It is, however, very true and so it is worth taking note that the first airport in the world to start using air traffic control was Croydon Airport and this occurred in 1921.

A popular subject in film

There have been many films over the years that have touched on the subject of air traffic control but there are a few noteworthy examples of films that have done a lot more than touch on the subject. Air traffic control is actually the premier topic of each of the following films:

Pushing Tin – A popular film starring John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton, this film was released in 1999 and focuses on a feud between two air traffic controllers. The film shows the intense pressure and stress of working in an air traffic control tower and how two totally different characters cope with the job.

Ground Control – This film, released in 1998 stars the popular actor Kiefer Sutherland who plays a disgraced controller who leaves his position after a terrible accident. The film then focuses on the unfortunate malfunction of an air traffic control system where Kiefer’s character is asked back and stoically saves the day.

Blackout Effect – This film was released for TV in 1998 and stars Eric Stoltz and Charles Martin Smith. The film focuses on the untimely malfunction of the air traffic control system which leads to a disastrous crash between a domestic and a cargo plane. The character played by Eric must investigate what truly happened with the system to lead to the crash.

James writes for Host Systems. When not blogging about mobile air traffic control, he can often be found frantically waving his hands in front of airplanes.


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