Our glossary contains frequently used terms and acronyms together with their explanations.

Control centre and tower

Control room or tower cab: Some air traffic controllers work in the tower cab at the airport, while others work in the control centre and use radar to control air traffic. They all have the same task, regardless of where they work: All aircraft have to reach their destinations safely and efficiently, both on the ground and in the air. In performing this task, controllers work in a team and use highly sophisticated technology.

Air traffic controllers perform a highly responsible job, and a high level of trust is placed in them. Uninterrupted monitoring of the airspace is essential – otherwise no aircraft could fly, take off or land safely. "Safety first" is the top priority in air traffic control.

The airspace over Germany is divided horizontally and vertically into different sectors. A team of two controllers is responsible for each sectors. They assign routes, flight levels and speeds to all aircraft crossing this area. If an aircraft leaves the prescribed course, the controllers will give the pilots instructions via radio to get back on track.

All instructions are given in English only. The controller and pilot work closely together: The pilot flies the aircraft, while the air traffic controller gives him directions. The controllers need to be highly skilled to separate the aircraft in such a way that the prescribed separation minima are complied with. They are constantly bombarded with new information, which they must integrated in their workflows. At the same time, they have to coordinate with the air traffic controllers working in the adjacent sectors.

Because controllers cannot go it alone – the job of controlling the airspace can only be done as part of a team. This is why the controller is assisted by another colleague and uses highly specialised radar and computer systems. Air traffic controllers must be proficient in operating the technical systems and communicating quickly and clearly.