This profession only needs the ability to visualize quickly and solve in real time, what must be considered a complex three dimensional problem involving the intuitive calculation of closure rates, separations, differential speeds and rates of climb and descend. In heavy traffic situations the responsibility shouldered is awesome.
A degree of stress is always present as a single moment of inattention – or a simple oversight or miscalculation –can lead to a catastrophe. Few jobs involve the unremitting effort, focus and concentration required of a controller.
The essential role of Air Traffic Controller has been described simply as converting traffic demand into traffic flow.
In this simple statement is encompassed a wide range of functions and skills, not all of which are common to every ATC task, but all of which depend heavily on the human element, the Air Traffic Controller.
Every traffic situation is different and must be resolved in real time without error. A large number of details have to be remembered and factored into every decision.
In most jobs one can usually get by with odd slip-up or an occasionally unfocused mind. Not so in Air Traffic Control where the margin for error is zero.
A problem cannot be put aside to be handled later ‘in more relaxed frame of mind’.
One is forced to think, and think fast.