Review of IFATCA Policy Regarding ATCO Recruitment & Selection

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Review of IFATCA Policy Regarding ATCO Recruitment & Selection

58TH ANNUAL CONFERENCE, Conchal, Costa Rica, 20-24 May 2019

Agenda Item: C.6.6 – WP No. 157

Review of IFATCA Policy Regarding ATCO Recruitment & Selection

Presented by PLC


Member Associations (MAs) in some regions are currently facing serious issues in recruitment, selection and training of new ATCOs. PLC is tasked to review the current policy.


PLC was originally asked by a European MA to develop new, and review existing policy, about initial recruitment, selection and training of ATCOs. Several Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs), mostly European, are facing severe problems in recruiting and training ab initio staff due to changes in personal plans of the individual applicants, motivation and attitude issues as well as significantly higher failing rates during training. This is being seen in theory lessons, simulation and OJT.

This however was not possible to fulfil on a global basis as the current procedures in recruiting, selection and training are obviously very different from region to region even though they all are in line with ICAO standards.

The mentioned problems of the initiating MAs / ANSPs could not be identified in many other countries, so PLC had no chance to base this task on a global basis and cancelled this topic as it was.

However, subsequently PLC agreed to review the existing policy for these domains, in respect of the discussed issues of the MAs.


IFATCA’s Technical and Professional Manual (TPM) holds a number of policies for recruitment and selection and even more extensive policies regarding training of ATCOs. Due to the nature of the initial request, this Paper will concentrate on the recruitment and selection part of the paragraphs which can be found in


b) TRNG 10.1.1 AGE

2.1. Current Policy regarding selection


Applicants will be required to possess the academic qualifications required to enter a recognized post-secondary educational institution in their country.



Applicants without previous aviation experience should be between 18 and 25 years of age. PLC has examined this, and as there has been no scientific changes to these topics, concluded that this policy does not need an update at this time.


There should be no discrimination between the sexes in the selection of Air Traffic Controllers. This is in line with legal requirement in many countries anyway; no update needed.

Aptitude tests specifically designed for air traffic controllers shall be included in the selection process for air traffic controllers.



Member Associations, in consultation with their Administrations, shall encourage the development of suitable static and dynamic aptitude tests for the selection of air traffic controllers.



The selection board shall include a psychologist trained in, or familiar with, all aspects of ATC and a controller trained in selection methods and procedures. PLC has examined these and concluded an update in not needed at this time.


Member Associations should co-operate with those responsible for the selection of air traffic controllers in their country and obtain agreement on:

a) the composition of the selection board, including representation by the Member Association where appropriate;

b) a definite list of criteria which would be sought by the selection board;

c) the procedures of the selection process. In particular, paragraphs A and B should give the MA the possibility to have local influence on the process and to emphasize certain attitude and aptitude points in the selection process where needed. No update needed as MA involvement is possible according to policy.

2.2 Current policy regarding failure in training

2.2.1 As help for MAs facing difficulties with training, there is policy regarding reasons for failure in ATC training.


Training organizations should be encouraged to research the reasons for failure.


2.2.2 MAs affected by problems in recruitment, selection and training should be able to identify the main problems by the results of the research mentioned in this policy.

2.2.3 In addition, there is this from TRNG 10.1.2:

Member Associations, in consultation with their Administrations, shall encourage the development of suitable static and dynamic aptitude tests for the selection of air traffic controllers. MAs should encourage the modification of these tests if certain weaknesses have been identified within the research of failure reasons of past periods.


3.1 No major issues were detected with current policies as they cover the requirements of current ATCO recruiting and selection.

3.2 There are steps that can be taken to assist with the current problems of recruitment. MAs should insist that the ANSP test the job motivation of each applicant before completing the aptitude test. This should coincide with more detailed information about the job conditions in Air Traffic Control as this is a 24 hours, 7 days a week domain, and is usually executed in a complex shift work environment. Often neither the location where ATC is to be carried out, nor the scheduling roster, is chosen by the applicant. ANSPs needs to emphasise these particular points from the very beginning to make sure that applicants starting training are well aware of these facts and are willing to perform the job under these circumstances. In some regions this is even more necessary, as the area of interest of new applicants towards their job, is more and more going towards a better work-life balance and more personal time for hobbies and family. Part-time employment and a non-shift work environment is often desired by young trainees as a priority.

3.3 Awareness for all conditions of their future profession will increase performance and motivation both during training and after acquiring licenses. Therefore, a complete and detailed job description is needed, either on the application website, brochures or in other means of information available.

3.4 Often the basic and initial information is quite simplistic, as they only provide some nice pictures of ATC Towers (even though the majority of students will end up as a radar controller) and some aircraft, with missing detailed information about everything around the actual task of an ATCO.


4.1 It is recommended:

That the IFATCA Executive Board examine and implement ways of disseminating information on the profession of air traffic controller on the IFATCA webpage and any other suitable means, as deemed appropriate.


IFATCA (2018). Technical and Professional Manual, TRNG 10.1.1, 10.1.2 and 10.2.4. Montreal, Canada: IFATCA

Last Update: October 2, 2020  

November 19, 2019   321   Jean-Francois Lepage    2019    

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