Daily record of takeoffs and landings at the Domodedovo International Airport is 724. Maximum hourly capacity of two runways working simultaneously is 43 aircrafts. All this air traffic is controlled by dispatchers working day and night at the air traffic control tower. Profession of air traffic controller is among the most difficult ones speaking of psychological stress. Let’s spend some time with professionals who control tens thousands of lives.
Domodedovo has two runways and each of them is controlled by the separate dispatcher teams. There is a total of 6 shifts, 10 dispatchers each.
Probably first what you imagine hearing about an air traffic controller is a typical movie image of a severe man with huge headphones shouting something in a microphone and staring at a round monitor with a green line going round. Movies are not always true. They don’t use headphones, displays are neither round, nor green and not only men can take their seats in the tower but pretty girls too.
Each display shows all the aircrafts near the airport. Dispatcher can control if they are climbing or descend, at which altitude and with which speed they are flying.
The whole airport territory is clearly visible from the tower. A complex of modern equipment including automatic visualization system is installed here. Wide field of view of the airfield allows controlling every vehicle movement. If a dispatcher has any suspicions he uses binoculars.
If a runway is busy controller switches on a special indicator with sound signal.
All controllers’ actions are controlled by a senior dispatcher. He’s always moving from one controller to another supervising their activities.
Each dispatcher is supposed to have a 20-minutes break every 2 hours. While having a rest he is replaced by a substitute dispatcher.
Minimal time between aircraft landings is 2 minutes and between takeoffs – from 1 to 3 minutes depending on the aircraft class. Atmosphere on the tower is very calm and quiet. When one of the dispatchers holds radio exchange with the aircraft’s crew all others keep silent or speak in a whisper.
For getting up to the tower air traffic controllers pass through this windowed door. They use their special electronic passes and a fingerprint scanner to get in.
One of the payments for this kind of hard work is the beautiful view from the any side of the tower.