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Author Topic: En route or Terminal ATC  (Read 18783 times)
NAplaya16-ATC
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« on: December 12, 2007, 11:00:18 AM »

Im new to liveATC and i want to be an ATC.  im currently in my 1st semester at CCBC.  right now im earning my private pilots licence, and next semester, ill be starting up my ATC classes.   I was just wondering if anyone out there had some news, information, or advice, onto what they think is the best path to take, which they think is the best choice and why, etc.   i got accepted into the en route program at ccbc, however, i still have some time to decide whether to stay en route or switch over to terminal.  ive talked to some people over here and theyve said different things, and im just looking to get some information from those who obviously have more experience than i do. 

so any info or insight would be well appreciated,  Thank you

-NAplaya
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DairyCreamer
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« Reply #1 on: December 12, 2007, 03:54:27 PM »

Here's my take on the whole deal.  All my opinion.

I "grew up" loving terminal ATC after observing operations for years and years at terminal facilities, with the occasional rare visit to a center.  While I was convinced terminal ATC was the only way to go, I was hired at an en-route center (ZAB).

To this point, I have absolutely loved my experience at the ARTCC (the JOB mind you, definitely not the current management conditions).  It has a huge big-picture decision making flavor, and I believe the ARTCC environment is a more comprehensive ATC experience because, short of tower functions, you do a little of everything with the radar.

Approach controllers don't finesse a line of 15, 20, 50 planes to 10 or 20 Miles in Trail.  Approach controllers don't make decisions (as often) that can really screw your comrades a sector away if you don't evaluate them carefully.  The airspace picture changes more dynamically en-route, particularly when the military comes out to play.  ARTCCs often deal with more non-radar controlling.  And there's some interesting perspective when you look at the scope and see the dashed outline of an approach control, and you realize that a single sector you are working 10-15 planes in by yourself is potentially 2, 3, 4 (sometimes more) times the size of the entire world of the terminal controller.  Heck, the 5 mile bubble around a single aircraft is damned near as volumous as the airspace of an entire Class D tower's airspace.

Then again.  ARTCC controllers rarely brute force traffic in line.  TRACON controllers, particularly at the busier facilities, sequence aircraft 10 and more deep along a final approach course, often paralleling an equally busy parallel approach.  Types of traffic interact more often, with your country bumpkin 172 trying to mix in with 737s and larger at quite a few places.  Based on size alone, terminal decisions are generally made more quickly.  Terminals are often more proceduralized with corridors automatically keeping your traffic separated from the controller sitting next to you.  By god, you might even get to look out the window and actually see the plane you're talking to, not to mention the sun, moon, and clouds, and feel a more direct connection to the ATC you are performing.  You might actually get to know the names of everyone in your facility too, not just your area of speciality.

I am loving my ARTCC ATC experience right now, and learning more than I ever imagined.  With that said, I think I still want to retire to a decent-sized Tower, TRACON, or (best case) up/down facility.  This assumes I stick with performing ATC duties for my whole career.

Now.  ARTCCs are few in number relative to terminal facilities.  They are often located closer to larger cities (no, I don't define Albuquerque as large).  Their training programs are longer and more involved in most cases.  They are, however, the highest levels of ATC and traffic count compared to where most people start their ATC careers.  Granted, many people are being slung to the likes of A80 or N90 straight off working ATC-12 terminal radar.  Their wash-out rate though illustrates that not everyone has the right stuff to work that traffic.

Most terminal controllers will start at a low level tower, making piss poor wages now thanks to the FAA's imposed work rules.  They might check out quicker, and in most cases will have an easier time getting promotions and the ability to move to a busier facility.  Of course, this involves picking up and moving your life when you are ready to make more money.  As well, your promotions aren't quite as set in stone as the ARTCCs.  Even if you check out at your low level facility, you need to wait to get picked up by your next facility to get the opportunity to earn more.  This is getting tougher to do as virtually every facility in the US is becoming "critically staffed," with ATMs wanting to hold on to their valuable CPC assets.  Earning your CTO (possible at CCBC even before you get to the FAA) is highly valuable as well, and opens up job opportunities with the DoD or contract towers after you get sick of the FAA and want to quit because of it's horrible management-employee relations.

For ARTCCs, you can easily spend your entire career there if you wanted to.  You can build your life and be reasonably assured you won't be moving any time soon.  It may take 3-4 years to check out, but once you're there, you are (basically) at the top of the FAA's still-$hitty pay.  At least you aren't quite as poor as your tower counterparts on the whole.  Transferring facilities from an ARTCC though right now is getting to be virtually impossible.  They are the worst staffed of them all, and save a rare few exceptions or promotions OUT of the controller ranks, it's gonna be a long long time before you can move to a new facility, terminal or ARTCC.  There is no CTO to be had either, and as such, you are pretty much restricted to working for the FAA, though there are a handful of DoD radar-only facilities to be had.  Anywho, given that the ARTCCs are hard up for people, it's also more likely you will go to an ARTCC if you select states containing those facilities.

Well... I've been writing for a while.  Yes, these are my opinions.  Yes, I'm sure some may disagree with them.  Be absolutely DAMNED sure you want this job right now though.  Do your homework with the current status of labor relations and how the pay is a full 30% less than a year and a half ago.  If you can, get your degree in something else that is marketable outside of ATC, and just get a minor to check that CTI education box for the pool of applicants.  Just because you have your CTI degree doesn't mean you'll be hired right off the bat.  It will still take at least some time between degree and OKC, and you'll want to be earning money.  At least the FAA decided to give back per-diem at OKC, making that whole thing easier.  While, of course, they screwed the 2-2.5 years worth of students that hacked it out there making barely more than minimum wage.

Am I bitter?  Never.

Anyway, don't F up your decision, OK?

~Nate
« Last Edit: December 12, 2007, 04:00:29 PM by DairyCreamer » Logged
NAplaya16-ATC
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« Reply #2 on: December 12, 2007, 06:05:18 PM »

haha ya i can see how non-bitter you are bout the trainees gettin screwed outta pay.  and i think its crappy that those students got $hat on like that. 

but thank you for your insight and information.   i appreciate it!

NAplaya
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davolijj
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« Reply #3 on: December 12, 2007, 09:29:52 PM »

Not to nit-pick but I'd be remiss if I didn't comment on a few of those statements before I give my two cents.

...Approach controllers don't finesse a line of 15, 20, 50 planes to 10 or 20 Miles in Trail.  Approach controllers don't make decisions (as often) that can really screw your comrades a sector away if you don't evaluate them carefully.
This is a very broad statement but I'm certain our terminal brothers would disagree with you about their decisions not affecting their adjacent sectors.

Quote
...The airspace picture changes more dynamically en-route, particularly when the military comes out to play...
I can't imagine a more dynamic change than a busy terminal changing runways.  And as for the military affecting operations, I'm sure the folks at several terminal facilities who control special use airspace(like P31 for example) would say it changes their picture too...not just the Center's.

Quote
...And there's some interesting perspective when you look at the scope and see the dashed outline of an approach control, and you realize that a single sector you are working 10-15 planes in by yourself is potentially 2, 3, 4 (sometimes more) times the size of the entire world of the terminal controller.
True, the airspace is much more vast, but the amount of attention each aircraft needs in the Enroute enviroment is much less than at an approach control.  When's the last time you had 8 airplanes all on a vector at the same time?  Not that either one's harder, it's just different.

Quote
...Terminals are often more proceduralized with corridors automatically keeping your traffic separated from the controller sitting next to you...
Many of the busier centers apply the same principle to the enroute enviroment as well.  Places like ZDC, ZFW, ZNY, and ZME for instance have one-way sectors encompassing one-way airways, and though they may be 100 miles long they may be only 25 miles wide, almost like a corridor.  Level 10 facilities probably don't have these types of sectors.

As to the question of Terminal or Enroute....I can't give advice as to which type of facility to pursue.  There are too many external factors to influence your decision.  Being a CCBC grad, however, I can tell you that my experience in the tower is one which I am eternally grateful for, and although I now work at a center, I would not trade it for anything.  The basic fundamentals I learned there I apply everyday as I progress through my training.  I was fortunate enough to stay on as an instructor for 3 years while I waited for the FAA, and I would not trade that time for anything either.

As to the broader question of which type of facility is better....I guess it's just personal preference.  I've talked to several former "swivel-heads" who now work at the center and they all say the same thing.  At terminal facilities working the traffic is just a bit more fun than at the center.  Good luck and study hard.
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JD
DairyCreamer
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« Reply #4 on: December 12, 2007, 09:58:04 PM »

haha ya i can see how non-bitter you are bout the trainees gettin screwed outta pay.  and i think its crappy that those students got $hat on like that. 

but thank you for your insight and information.   i appreciate it!

NAplaya

I'm glad you saw the humor in my statements.  I left the post thinking "oh no, what if I came off like an ass with my last statement."  I wouldn't worry about it all too much, just do what you think is more interesting.  If you can explore both options a little, do it.  Check out the tower, and maybe try and visit a center (head over to Oberlin and see ZOB for instance).

To Davo...

I agree with your sentiments as well.  It's absolutely impossible to "sum up" the extremely wide variety of ATC that occurs out there.  My statements are from a Western US bent, where the airspace tends to be more wide open than back east.  I couldn't throw a blanket to cover the most complex airspace system in the world if I tried.

ATC is a team activity to be true, and all decisions can screw your buddy if you aren't careful.  I was trying to illustrate a broader "far down the road" picture.  Runway changes are inherently chaos.  Still, SUAs click on and off and tend to have a greater impact on overall traffic flow in the ARTCCs compared to a given TRACON.

Referencing the attention per aircraft, this is where I was trying to compare between the finesse and the brute force differences in controlling.  Often in the terminal, multiple aircraft need things done right now.  En-route usually has time to plan and come up with solutions.  We don't often have 8 planes on vectors, but during bad weather season, we do have 20 planes flying every which way possible trying to get around lines of thunderstorms that stretch across 6 states.  Exciting in its own right.

ZAB does have a couple of the mentioned "one way" type sectors for our PHX, but yes, I expect many centers have more of this sort of thing.

Anyway... ATC is a vast world based on many concrete rules applied in sometimes very abstract ways.  I hope you enjoy the ride.

~Nate
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NAplaya16-ATC
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« Reply #5 on: December 12, 2007, 11:58:49 PM »

Nate,

I understood exactly what you meant when you talked about the whole 2-2.5 students gettin screwed.  You said it perfectly actually!  haha     

now in regards to locations of centers, ive heard how they are in basically placed in the middle of nowhere, is this true?    This isnt goin to affect my decision of anything, im just still trying to fond out info.


Davo,

Thanks for your input too!  you are right, on days after i would get done flying, i go up to the tower and just snoop around.  Just ask some questions, see whats new in the aviation/atc business.  all the students/instructors who i talk to, both say that i should visit and observe both too!   however, all the students basically say, "screw en route."     in fact, i was in the science center today and asked the terminal instructor about terminal,  and he said sarcastically, "well do you want to be on the dark side or the light side?" 

anyhow, thank you both for the info, and if u have anything else, or hear anything new, please feel free to keep posting things!

thank you

-NAplaya
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DairyCreamer
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« Reply #6 on: December 13, 2007, 12:11:54 AM »

Centers are not in the middle of nowhere, though in most cases they are not in the same city that their facility name / identifier implies.

Denver is in Longmont.

Boston is in Nashua.

Los Angeles is in Palmdale (considered the middle of nowhere by some people I know).

But, Albquerque is in Albuquerque.

Houston is in Houston.

Anyway... unless someone can procure it sooner, there is a list of all the ARTCCs' addresses in the ATCCTI.com forums.  I'd CC it here, but the forum looks to be down at the moment.

~Nate
« Last Edit: December 13, 2007, 12:22:02 AM by DairyCreamer » Logged
NWA ARJ
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« Reply #7 on: December 13, 2007, 12:50:14 AM »

I work in a Tower and I love it. Going to work every day to WATCH planes take off is very cool. You cant beat the windows. The facility I work at is also an UP/DOWN. So you get the best of both worlds. A little bit of tower and a little bit of radar. The choice is really up to you. Would you rather work at a tower and look out the windows all day, or work at a dark center and stare at radar scopes all day?
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DairyCreamer
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« Reply #8 on: December 13, 2007, 11:38:58 AM »

Here's a list of addresses and phone #'s for all the ARTCCs:

Albuquerque ARTCC 8000 Louisiana Blvd. NE Albuquerque NM 87109 (505) 856-4601

Anchorage ARTCC 5400 Davis Highway Anchorage AK 99506 (907) 269-1137

Atlanta ARTCC 299 Woolsey Road Hampton GA 30228 (770) 210-7601

Boston ARTCC 35 Northeastern Road Nashua NH 03062 (603) 879-6633

Chicago ARTCC 619 W. Indian Trail Rd. Aurora IL 60506 (630) 906-8240

Cleveland ARTCC 326 E. Lorraine St. Oberlin OH 44074 (440) 774-0644

Denver ARTCC 2211 17th Ave. Longmont CO 80501 (303) 651-4100

Fort Worth ARTCC 13800 FAA Rd. Fort Worth TX 76039 (817) 858-7570

Guam CERAP Andersen AFB, Bldg. 18011 MAPO AP Agana Guam 96543-5000 (671) 366-6286

Honolulu Control Facility 760 Worchester Ave. Honolulu HI 96818 (808) 840-6100

Houston ARTCC Intercontinental Airport, 16600 John F. Kennedy Houston TX 77032-0032 (281) 230-5600

Indianapolis ARTCC 1850 S. Sigsbee St. Indianapolis IN 46241 (317) 247-2256

Jacksonville ARTCC 10 Aviation Ave. Hilliard FL 32046 (904) 549-1526

Kansas City ARTCC 250 South Rogers Rd. Olathe KS 55024 (913) 254-8570

Los Angeles ARTCC 2555 East Avenue P Palmdale CA 93550-2112 (661) 265-8217

Memphis ARTCC 3229 Democrat Rd. Memphis TN 38118 (901) 368-8595

Miami ARTCC 7500 NW 58th St. Miami FL 33166 (305) 716-1500

Minneapolis ARTCC 512 Division St. Farmington MN 55024 (651) 463-5550

New York ARTCC 4205 Johnson Ave. Ronkonkoma NY 11779 (516) 468-1053

Oakland ARTCC 5125 Central Ave. Fremont CA 94536-6531 (510) 745-3492

Salt Lake ARTCC 2150 W 700 N Salt Lake City UT 84116 (801) 320-2541

San Juan CERAP FAA, 5000 CARR 190 Carolina PR 00979 (787) 253-8692

Seattle ARTCC ARTCC Blvd., 3101 Auburn Way S. Auburn WA 98092 (253) 351-3500

Washington ARTCC 825 East Market Leesburg VA 20176 (703) 771-3401

~Nate
« Last Edit: December 13, 2007, 11:40:43 AM by DairyCreamer » Logged
NAplaya16-ATC
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« Reply #9 on: December 13, 2007, 01:48:40 PM »

NWA,

Ya, im from columbus, ohio and port columbus intl is an up/down and ive been there couple times and really liked what i saw and observed.   didnt get a chance to really talk to as many atc's that i wanted, but the ones i did, they said almost exactly what you said. 

Nate,

thank you for the addresses to the ARTCCs.   ill be lookin those up,  thanks

-NAplaya
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zmeatc
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« Reply #10 on: December 13, 2007, 05:53:12 PM »

"Many of the busier centers apply the same principle to the enroute enviroment as well.  Places like ZDC, ZFW, ZNY, and ZME for instance have one-way sectors encompassing one-way airways, and though they may be 100 miles long they may be only 25 miles wide, almost like a corridor.  Level 10 facilities probably don't have these types of sectors."

ZME does not have any one way sectors. And yes we are a level 12 center. Yes you do have to pay a lot of attention in a center. Alot of the stuff we do is off radio's. You're checking routes, seeing if the plane is on a PAR, PDR, etc... When MOA's go hot it takes away alot of your airspace. There's a sector in ZME that when the MOA goes hot it takes away 80% of airspace away! Only in a Center, when all hell breaks loose, will you see 3 controllers at one sector. (An R-side, D-side, and a tracker). It takes, at a minimum, 3 years to get checked out in a center, many of them will take 4+ years! Both, ARTCC and ATCT's are hard, but just in different ways.

Not trying to start a war between Center pukes and swivel(sp?) heads. LOL
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zmeatc
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« Reply #11 on: December 13, 2007, 05:59:15 PM »

My above statment.....not trying to ba an ass. Tryin to be funny but I'm not good at this typing thing!
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kaktak1
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« Reply #12 on: December 13, 2007, 06:43:32 PM »

so are all of the controller at ZAB all in NM?  So when I am flying out of KFFZ, and get flight following, and PHX TRACON hands me to ZAB, I am actually talking to a person in NM?

Kind of new at interpreting this stuff so bear with me.
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If black boxes survive air crashes — why don't they make the whole plane out of that stuff?
NAplaya16-ATC
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« Reply #13 on: December 13, 2007, 06:45:58 PM »

My above statment.....not trying to ba an ass. Tryin to be funny but I'm not good at this typing thing!

haha thats cool!    now how often would say the military "goes hot"Huh     is it to a point where you can almost pre-guess or pre-determine when the military will be  out on what days, buzzing around???      or do they just randomly call up one day and basically say, "we're doin this today, over these areas....etc,  have a nice day!" 

Sorry to put it in simple/dummy terms!!

-NAplaya
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cactushp
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« Reply #14 on: December 13, 2007, 06:48:51 PM »

so are all of the controller at ZAB all in NM?  So when I am flying out of KFFZ, and get flight following, and PHX TRACON hands me to ZAB, I am actually talking to a person in NM?

Kind of new at interpreting this stuff so bear with me.
That is correct. Lets say your flying FFZ-TUS w/ ff. You talk to P50 (at the base of the PHX tower), and then you will talk to ZAB (in ABQ, NM), and then U90 (at Davis-Mothan.)
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