How to Become an Air Traffic Controller in Canada

What do Air Traffic Controllers Do?

Air traffic controllers are responsible for managing the flow of air traffic to ensure safety in the skies. They work in towers or centers, directing planes as they take off, land, and move through the airspace.

There are several positions within air traffic control, the main ones are tower controllers, who manage traffic at airports, and en route controllers, who manage traffic between airports. En route controllers are either IFR or VFR controllers.

A related common position is Flight service specialist (FSS), who informs pilots about flight information before, during, and after flights, but unlike air traffic control (ATC), does not give instructions or provide clearances. 

 

ATC Benefits

Air Traffic Control is a rewarding job with a generous salary ranging between 55,000-265,000 CAD, with an average salary of 140,882$ and comprehensive benefits plans.

Your salary is dependent on your location and of course, your experience level. As a trainee, your salary starts at 48,000/year, which goes up once you get certified and increases as you gain experience.

 

How to Apply?

The best training option for aspiring air traffic controllers in Canada is applying directly to Nav Canada, which provides and pays those who get accepted to go through ATC training. Becoming an air traffic controller involves a significant amount of training and testing, but first requires meeting certain requirements set by NAV Canada. 

Aiming for an air traffic controller position? You can also check out our ATSA Test Prep.

 

Nav Canada Eligibility Requirements

To become an air traffic controller with NAV Canada, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident
  • Have a 12th-grade education or equivalent
  • Pass a security clearance and medical exam (have good eyesight and hearing)
  • Speak clear English with good diction and enunciation (French is required for jobs in Quebec and Ottawa) 

 

The Selection Process

The selection process typically takes up to 4 months to complete but may take more depending on when the next available training is. These are the main stages you can expect:

  1. Complete an online application on the NAV Canada careers page.
  2. Pass an online cognitive screening test (Aon Cut-e)
  3. Schedule and pass a more advanced cognitive test and air traffic simulations (FEAST), with only the top-performing candidates being invited to a virtual interview within a few days to 2-3 weeks.
  4. Virtual and in-person interviews.

Out of all ATC candidates who start the process, only a small number of candidates make it through and go into an applicant pool for training. However, it does not guarantee getting selected for training, as NavCanada chooses only the top performing candidates out of all candidates who passed this process.

 

Nav Canada Selection Tests

The two major tests to screen candidates are the Aon Cut-e online aptitude test and the FEAST test.

  • The AON Cut-e is a 30-minute test with 30 questions, and candidates need to answer 25-27 questions correctly.
    Learn more about the NAV Canada Online aptitude test
  • Those who pass this test will move on to the more challenging FEAST test. The first part of it (FEAST1) takes 2.5 hours and includes 11 different categories of questions. The second stage of the FEAST (FEAST2) requires passing a computerized yet challenging air traffic simulation. Only the top 30% of grades are accepted for further training.
    Learn more about preparing for the FEAST test.

 

Training

The NAV Canada training program starts twice a year (fall and spring), and you will typically find out if you've been accepted about four months before the program begins.

NavCanada’s ATC Training includes a classroom-based course, web-based courses, and simulator training, followed by on-the-job training at a flight information center or flight service station. The training can take up to two years to complete, and candidates are paid for their time during training.

Specialist controllers (such as area and tower controllers) may receive additional training after completing this initial classroom training, depending on how complex the location to which they are expected to be assigned is. This may take as much as seven months. 

Finally, regardless of their future position, all air traffic controllers must take up on-the-job training at a flight information center or a flight service station for anywhere between five months to a year.


In summary, becoming an ATC in Canada is a selective process that requires passing multiple tests and completing extensive training. However, it's a well-paying job with great benefits and job security. If you meet the requirements and are willing to put in the effort, becoming an Air Traffic Controller in Canada could be a fulfilling career choice.

Good Luck!

 

 

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