ATC Hiring Glossary

A list of acronyms, initialisms, and other common terms

The worlds of aviation and government are both full of specialized jargon, which can make things confusing for newcomers. This list is tailored to air traffic control applicants and new hires in the U.S. It covers many of the terms you may encounter while preparing for a career as an air traffic controller. It does not cover the more expansive topics that applicants will eventually encounter in actual training.

The Academy refers to the air traffic control training program at the MMAC in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  All inexperienced new hires will attend initial training at this Academy.
Used in relation to the Academy, it refers to the Stafford Building, where enroute and terminal classes are held.  Basics classes are taught in a separate building, and basics instructors may give forewarning about what happens "across the street".
Air Route Traffic Control Center
Frequently shortened to just "Center".  ARTCCs are large air traffic control facilities where enroute controllers work.  They handle all of the high altitude, high speed traffic over the US, primarily via radar screens.
Air Traffic Skills Assessment
The AT-SA is a battery of aptitude tests that is used to by the FAA to screen air traffic control applicants.  For ATC applicants who meet the basic hiring requirements, it is the primary selector for who will eventually receive a job offer.
Air Traffic-Selection and Training
The AT-SAT was the precursor to the AT-SA.  This test is no longer used and you should disregard any information specific to it.
Air Traffic Control
Typically refers to the profession which air traffic controllers participate in.
Air Traffic Control Tower
The prototypical control tower, as seen at airports across the world.
Air Traffic Manager
The manager in charge of an ATC facility.
Aviation Careers
Aviation Careers is a name used by the FAA's Human Resources Department in Oklahoma City.  New hires will hear from them often; they coordinate the entire hiring process for air traffic controllers.
Biographical Assessment
The biographical assessment was a personality test administered during previous hiring rounds that eliminated many applicants from consideration.  It was controversial and was phased out in 2018. It was also called the Biographical Questionnaire (BQ or BioQ).
Basics, or Air Traffic Basics, is five-week introductory course taught at the Academy.  It occurs immediately before initial enroute or initial tower training.
Bid is another term for an official hiring announcement/hiring cycle. The FAA intermittently posts bids to hire air traffic controllers.
The cab is the top room of a control tower that has large windows and is where the local and ground controllers work.
Civil Aerospace Medical Institute
In relation to the Academy, it usually means the building on campus that houses CAMI.  New hires will likely visit there at some point to participate in research.
Short for Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC). Centers are large air traffic control facilities where enroute controllers work. They handle all of the high altitude, high speed traffic over the US, primarily via radar screens.
Combined Center/Radar Approach Control
These are unusual facilities that serve terminal as well as enroute functions. They can be found in Hawaii, Guam, and Puerto Rico.
Clearance Instructions Letter
After receiving a TOL, applicants will receive this letter from human resources.  It contains the instructions needed to begin working on your medical (including MMPI-2) and security clearances.
Certified Professional Controller
A controller who is fully certified to work at a given facility/area. Achieving CPC status results in full salary and high job security.
Certified Professional Controller - In Training
A controller who is in training at a new facility/area but who has previously earned CPC status elsewhere.
Collegiate Training Initiative
A program wherein the FAA created partnerships with certain schools to prepare applicants for careers in air traffic control.  Completing such a program does not guarantee employment but offers a few advantages in the selection process.
In the enroute environment, controllers may work as teams with the D-side assisting the R-side and coordinating with other controllers.
Having a deal is slang for unintentionally allowing an airspace violation to occur, either in simulations or in real life. It could involve two planes or just one plane and unauthorized airspace.
A controller in training who has never before achieved CPC status.  Depending on facility size, there can be multiple developmental levels (e.g. D1, D2, D3) with pay raises at each level.
Electronic Questionnaires for Investigations Processing
e-QIP is used by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) as part of the security clearance process.  New hires receive instructions for this after receiving their CIL.
One of the two specialties that air traffic controllers can be trained in (the other being terminal).  Enroute controllers work in ARTCCs and primarily work high altitude, high speed traffic via radar screens.  The word comes from the French phrase "en route", meaning "along the way".
Entrance On Duty System
EODS is an online government system that allows new hires to complete on-boarding forms. Applicants will receive instructions for accessing this system after receiving their TOL.
En Route Automation Modernization
The name for the current generation of computer technology powering enroute centers.
Employee Relocation Request
This is a formal request by an employee to be relocated to a different facility.
Federal Aviation Administration
The national authority over civil aviation and the primary employer of air traffic controllers.
Flight Surgeon
A flight surgeon is a physician practicing aviation medicine and employed by the FAA.  Flight surgeons in the regional medical offices are the ones who grant medical clearances for controllers.
Formal Offer Letter
The ultimate step of the application process. Applicants receive a formal offer letter after completing all requirements for the job and receiving the necessary clearances. They will soon be offered a class date at the Academy.
Ground is one of the positions in an air traffic control tower.  The ground controller(s) will handle taxiing aircraft while the local controller(s) handle airborne aircraft.
Local is one of the positions in an air traffic control tower. The local controller(s) will handle airborne aircraft while the ground controller(s) handle taxiing aircraft.
Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center
The MMAC is a large federal facility in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma that employs around 7,500 people. It houses the Academy, as well as many other FAA and DoT services.
Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2
The MMPI-2 is a standardized test of adult personality and psychopathology. All ATC hires must take it as part of their medical clearance.
National Air Traffic Controllers Association
The NATCA is the air traffic controllers' labor union. A large percentage of controllers are members.
National Centralized ERR Placement Process
This is centralized process that determines what employee relocations requests (ERRs) are fulfilled.
Off-the-street refers to ATC applicants who have no prior experience or training, or the hiring announcements for which those applicants are eligible.
Point of Contact
Used to refer to specific people within various departments (e.g. human resources, medical, security, etc.) whom new hires must contact to complete various stages of the hiring process.
In the enroute environment, controllers may work as teams with the R-side being the one giving instructions to aircraft.
Radar Ticket
Refers to the additional radar certification a terminal control can receive to work at a TRACON or Up-Down facility.
Remote Pilot Operator
Remote pilot operators assist in operating the simulations during training. They are typically in another room (remote) and they read pilot dialog and control simulated aircraft.
Radar Training Facility
RTF is the training that a terminal controller needs to work at a TRACON or Up-Down facility.  It occurs at the Academy, separately from initial training.
One of the two specialties that air traffic controllers can be trained in (the other being enroute).  Terminal controllers work in control towers and/or TRACONs and work with traffic at or near airports.
Tier 2
Applicants who do not pass the MMPI-2 on their first try must undergo what is called "Tier 2" evaluation. This involves meeting with a psychologist to understand whatever issue was flagged.
Tentative Offer Letter
Tentative Offer Letters are sent to ATC applicants who have passed the AT-SA exam and who have been selected to be hired. This represents one of the key moments in the hiring process.  The offer is tentative because the applicants must still receive their medical and security clearances before receiving a Formal Offer Letter (FOL).
Technical Review
At the Academy, after a performance evaluation, a technical review is a way to challenge a point reduction that you don't agree with.
Terminal Radar Approach Control
This is a type of terminal ATC facility that uses radar to handle aircraft approaching and departing airports.  It can be thought of as an intermediary between ARTCCs and ATCTs.
Up-down is slang for an ATC facility that houses both a control tower (ATCT) and a TRACON.  The tower cab, at the highest level, is the "up", and the TRACON, housed at a lower level, is the "down".  Controllers at these facilities become certified to work both positions.