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How Air Traffic Control works

Updated: Aug 20, 2023

How exactly does it all come together? Air Traffic Control (ATC) is a service provided by ground based personnel, known as "controllers", who direct aircraft and other vehicles in such a way to provide a safe, orderly and expeditious flow of traffic on the ground and in the air. ATC systems worldwide separate aircraft to prevent collisions, organize and expedite the flow of air traffic and provide information and other support for pilots when available.

ATC provides Air Traffic Services, which is the most popular aspect of Air Navigation Services (ANS) which also includes Communication, Navigation and Surveillance Services (CNS)** and Aeronautical Information Services (AIS)**. In Trinidad and Tobago, the Trinidad and Tobago Civil Aviation Authority holds the dual role of aviation regulator and Air Navigation Services' provider (ANSP) for the Piarco Flight Information Region.**



Below we have included a few videos that would effectively explain the topic. Wendover Productions has a number of interesting videos on its channel, and it is quite obvious that aviation is a passion for this youtuber.

Inside Dubai Air Traffic Control by aviation enthusiast Sam Chui gives an inside look at ANS operations as well as ATC Training at the Dubai International Airport. These principles can be compared to operations in Trinidad & Tobago where the TTCAA is the ANS Provider for the national airspace and the Piarco Flight Information Region** at large. Additionally the TTCAA is home to the Civil Aviation Training Centre (CATC) where Controllers are trained, and subsequently issued diplomas in Aerodrome, Approach and Area Control, among a host of other aviation related certification.

Keeping Aircraft Safe without Radar: The North Atlantic Tracks by Tom Scott highlights how the airspace between the America's and Europe operate, which is a bit different from the standard as described by the previous 2 videos


What is the Piarco Flight Information Region?

A Flight information region (FIR) is a specified region of airspace in which flight information service and alerting service are provided. It is the largest regular division of airspace in use in the world today. Every portion of the atmosphere belongs to a specific FIR.

Trinidad & Tobago through the TTCAA is responsible for the Piarco FIR (TTZP) and provides Air Navigation Services throughout the Eastern Caribbean ( from Antigua in the north to Trinidad in the south) and east of Barbados stretching almost half way across the Atlantic Ocean to Africa. It should be noted that each country is responsible for ANS within their own airspaces which resides from the surface to its TMA (Terminal Control Area, it used to be called Terminal Manoeuvring Area) which varies between 13,500 - 24,500 feet over each country.


What is Communication Navigation and Surveillance?

CNS, are the main functions that form the physical infrastructure for air traffic management, air traffic control and air navigation services .

What is Aeronautical Information Service?

AIS, is a service established in support of international civil aviation, whose objective is to ensure the flow of information necessary for the safety, regularity, and efficiency of international air navigation. In all ANSP's this service falls under Aeronautical Information Management (AIM).


The Trinidad & Tobago Air Traffic Controllers' Association

The TTATCA is the professional organisation representing, Air Traffic Controllers in Trinidad and Tobago, whose members are involved in the operation of the PIARCO Flight Information Region [TTZP]. The Association has been representing air traffic controllers for over 35 years and is an affiliate member of the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers' Associations. 

Over the years membership has expanded beyond Air Traffic Controllers within Trinidad & Tobago. It now includes instructors at the Civil Aviation Training Centre [CATC] and professionals in both Communication and Navigation & Surveillance [CNS] as well as Aeronautical Information Management [AIM].

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