Teamwork in Air Traffic Control

Teamwork in Air Traffic Control


The ATS system relies on good teamwork to achieve its goals. The greater familiarity of team members with each other, than is the case for flight crew in all but small airlines, makes achieving standard procedures simpler. In addition, fewer procedures are likely to be required and their application may be able to be slightly less prescriptive. However, breakdowns in teamwork can and do occur, and the consequences can be serious.

Operationally, the ATS team can be as small as the controllers and assistants working together in an operational area, or large enough to embrace associated ATC units such as APP, TWR and GND, or wide area coverage within or between ACCs. Supporting operational staff such as flow managers, planners, supervisors, are also important and controllers rely on effective co-operation with them to optimise their work.

Taking a different view, the team can be seen to include the aircraft and airlines to which ATS provide service which is both safe and effficient. At the organisational level, it can be seen to embrace the corporate management which provides direction to unit level and the strategic links to customer organisations, government, regulatory bodies, and international ATC organisations


Breakdown in teamwork may have an adverse effect on the following:

  • Communication between controllers, including briefing on handover;
  • Monitoring of pilot actions;
  • Cooperation with other controllers;
  • Flexibility - ability to adjust to changing workload;

Any or all of these factors taken singly or in combination may contribute to an accident or serious incident.

Additionally, breakdown in teamwork may lead to:

  • Frustration and irritation;
  • Low morale and poor job-satisfaction;

which are likely to impact on team performance (the vicious circle).


Many ANSPs operate Team Resource Management (TRM) training for ATCOs.

Contributory Factors

  • Staffing levels;
  • Cultural difficulties.


The principle and most effective solution is application of TRM principles at all levels of the organisation from management down.

Further Reading

EUROCONTROL Documentation


Flight Safety Foundation (FSF)


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