Airspace Q4 2017: Understanding the dynamics of ATCO remuneration

1 December 2017

A new report looks at changing air traffic controller profiles in gender, age and remuneration.

ATM relies on good air traffic controllers (ATCOs). But the role of the ATCO as well as the type of person fulfilling the job is likely to change. Automation, technology advances, and business model restructuring will all factor into the ATCO of the future.

The latest CANSO ATCO Remuneration and Human Resource Metrics Report provides the platform for a better understanding of these dynamics. An Airspace preview of a draft of the report reveals some important trends for ANSPs to consider.

Gender equality

Traditionally, air traffic control has been a male-dominated area but ANSPs have working hard to redress the balance.

In the previous, 2015 report, the 21 respondents (not necessarily the same ANSPs as covered in 2017 report) had a ratio of almost 5:1 in favour of males.

The gender imbalance was shown across all respondents and not exclusive to any one ANSP. But the numbers in the 2017 report showed a ratio of just 3:1 in favour of males.

Although this is not a direct comparison, due to the different respondents in the two reports, it clearly suggests a move towards gender equality.

It also appears that ATcOs are getting older. Some 24% of ATCOs were under the age of 30 in 2015, dropping to just 9% in 2017's findings. Again, the comparison is not like for like, but the trend is noteworthy.

Age-wise, the 2017 ATCO Remuneration and Human Resource Metrics Report reveals that 36% of ATCOs were aged 31 to 40; 34% were between the age of 41 and 50; with 17% aged 51 and over. Two ANSPs reported that less than 1% of their ATCOs are under the age of 21.

Retirement

The age range raises questions at either end of the spectrum; ATCO retirement and ATCO trainees. On retirement, the mandatory retirement age ranged from 55 to 68. As ATCOs near the end of theircareer, several differing ANSP approaches were noted:

  • 7 ANSPs provide training
  • 3 ANSPs provide proficiency checks
  • 2 ANSPs redeploy to administration duties or planning duties
  • 2 ANSPs provide competency checking
  • 2 ANSPs exempted their ATcOs from night shifts

Increased supervision, including over the shoulder performance evaluations, and annual knowledge verification testing were also part of the mix. Five ANSPs do not currently have any arrangements in place to manage the performance of ATCOs as they reach retirement age.

There is a pension plan for most, with 14 of the 20 respondents stating they have some form of post-career payment in place.

Meanwhile, there is a relatively high failure rate among student controllers. Thirteen ANSPs provided data, which revealed the average failure rate is 17%. In one ANSP, it was 50%. This is despite the fact that the vast majority of respondents pay student controllers while they are in training with an average wage of €16,786 per annum.

Moreover, a lucrative and rewarding career awaits those students who complete their training successfully. ATCOs are paid an average of 424% above the average industrial wage while shift supervisors are paid an average of 608% above the average industrial wage. Ten ANSPs have planned pay increases in 2018, nine ANSPs will apply pay increases in 2019 and six ANSPs plan an increase in 2020.

The full CANSO ATCO Remuneration and Human Resource Metrics Report will be available to those ANSPs that have participated and the de-identified report will be available to all CANSO Members on the CANSO Global ATM-net.

The main findings from the 2017 ATCO Remuneration and Human Resource Metrics Report

  • The average mandatory retirement age for ATCOs is 62 and the median is 60
  • The average length of service is 20+ years
  • The average working week of an ATcO is 38 hours
  • Annual leave averages a total of 29 days for an ATcO
  • 60% of ANSPs provide a shift premium to ATCOs
  • 71% of ANSPs provide a pension plan
  • 80% of respondents pay students while in training with an average failure rate of 17%
  • ATCOs are paid an average of 424% above the average industrial wage
  • Supervisors are paid an average of 608% above the average industrial wage
  • Ten ANSPs have planned pay increases in 2018, nine ANSPs will apply pay increases in 2019 and six ANSPs plan an increase in 2020.

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