return icon

Air traffic controllers face the strain with rising flights

Lasting a maximum of two hours, the shift of an air traffic controller is strenuous and full of pressure.

New air traffic control center needs VND1.4 trillion
Photos: Hanoi Air Traffic Control Centre inaugurated

Air traffic controllers at Noi Bai Airport. — VNA/VNS Photo Viet Hung


Any distractions or mistakes could result in the deaths of hundreds of passengers.

The air traffic controllers are responsible for safe, orderly and expeditious flow of air traffic by organising orders of airplanes and controlling their distances between each other when they take off and land at the airports.

The 88-metre-high Air Traffic Control Centre building at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi, the tallest in Vietnam and Southeast Asia, is surrounded by glass where air traffic controllers can have a view of the runway and airplane parking area. They exchange flight information with pilots via radio to monitor position, speed and altitude of airplanes.

Nguyen Ngoc Quang, head of the Noi Bai Air Traffic Control Centre, said the airplanes are assigned to land in specific spaces to ensure distance between airplanes. The controllers will be notified if the airplanes land in the wrong area.

The minimum safe distance between two airplanes is five miles or 9.3km.

“At Noi Bai Airport, the air space division is done very well, reducing landing waiting time,” Quang said.

Tran Xuan Loc, deputy head of the centre, said takeoff, landing and exchanges between air traffic controllers and pilots are recorded. If there is any mistake made by controllers or pilots, the records will be played to find who is responsible.

“To make sure pilots do not get the wrong orders, the air traffic controllers and pilots have to keep repeating what they want to say to each other,” Loc said.

Air traffic control is considered to be one of the most mentally challenging jobs in the world.

The centre head Nguyen Ngoc Quang told that one of the challenges is weather.

When the pilots face difficulties, the work of air traffic controllers is more challenging. Like police officers for the air, air traffic controllers must maintain safety.

In case of bad weather conditions, distances between airplanes must be increased. In case of storms or any incident on the runway or in urgent situations, air traffic controllers issue orders asking planes to wait.

Tran Hoang Linh, a female air traffic control at Nội Bài Airport, said the controllers usually face strenuous situations, for example, when planes are hit by birds or need security assistance. Air traffic controllers must be calm, determined and focused to offer support.


Besides highly specialised knowledge, skills and abilities, a ‘cool head’, calmness and determination, concentration and especially heath are what air traffic controllers need while on duty.

Before and after work, the controllers have their health checked. They are not allowed to work if they are sick or experiencing psychological problems.

The work of air traffic controllers is more and more strenuous with the increasing number of flights. It is also an opportunity for them to improve their skills. The controllers at Noi Bai, Tan Son Nhat, Da Nang, Phu Bai, Cam Ranh and Cat Bi airports are more skilled than those of the other airports, said Quang.

On average, one flight departs or lands in HCM City every minute and one flight every two minutes from or to Hanoi. With such numbers, the capacity of Vietnamese air traffic controllers is similar to staff of any other country, Doàn Huu Gia, general director of Vietnam Air Traffic Management Corporation (VATM), said.

According to the Civil Aviation Authority of Viet Nam, air traffic controllers nationwide direct more than 750,000 flights every year.

The VATM currently has nearly 5,000 air traffic controllers working at air traffic control centres nationwide and directing more than 16,000 domestic and international flights every day.

According to Nguyen Ngoc Quang, it takes graduates a long time, about five years, for training before they can work independently. The graduates are trained at the flight management professional skill training centre and then continue to be trained at their workplace. Passing practice testing afterwards and being given a certificate is not enough, they must work under the supervision of a senior member of staff before being able to work independently.

All air traffic controllers must sit for a test by the International Civil Aviation Organisation to be granted a certificate. Every year, they must attend 40 to 80 hours of training.

Once every year, the VATM tests air traffic controllers’ capacity to transfer unqualified officers to other work.

Gia said in spite of the strenuous workload, a lot of students apply for this major at the national entrance exam. According to Viet Nam Aviation Institute, about 4,000 students applied in this year’s exam to compete for only 40 slots.



Vietnamese game developers seek further global recognition

Head of the Authority of Broadcasting and Electronic Information Le Quang Tu Do has called on Vietnamese game firms to join hands to create breakthroughs in the game industry.

Visa exemption means international tourists can visit Phu Quoc for up to 30 days

Phu Quoc Island is an ideal choice for travel and long-term relaxation, with a complete visa exemption policy for international visitors, a temporary stay of up to 30 days, rich nature, and impressive architecture.

Digital banks attract significant numbers of Vietnamese customers

The number of new customers of commercial banks has increased dramatically in recent years thanks to their digital applications.

Over 1 million mobile subscribers complete information certifying

The Authority of Telecommunications (under the Information and Communications Ministry) yesterday announced the success of over 1 million mobile subscribers in certifying personal information with their carriers.

Satellite Internet sees promising future in Vietnam

Despite having been launched in Vietnam for a long time, satellite Internet does not have a wide market due to its high price. The situation might improve with the introduction of SpaceX’s satellite internet constellation Starlink.

Experts warn Vietnamese banks of risks following US banks’ collapse

If bond issuers fall into insolvency, the price of bonds could fall to zero, creating a high risk for banks.

Hanoi to resume tourism services on West Lake

Hanoi may resume 12 tourism services on the West Lake including boat transportation, after six years of suspension.

Car imports from Thailand still hold largest market share in Vietnam

Thailand once again led the market in terms of value and the number of CBU (complete built unit) cars imported to Vietnam in February 2023.

Deputy PM holds bilateral meetings on sidelines of UN 2023 Water Conference

Deputy Prime Minister Tran Hong Ha had bilateral meetings with many foreign leaders on the sidelines of the UN 2023 Water Conference, which is taking place in New York from March 22-24.

Vietnam temporarily suspends import, circulation of 15 types of medicines

The Drug Administration of Vietnam (DAV) under the Ministry of Health (MoH) has just issued an official dispatch on suspending the import, distribution, circulation and use of 15 types of medicines produced by Arena Group S.A. of Romania.

EVN urged to negotiate with renewable energy investors to fix electricity price

The Ministry of Industry and Trade has urged the Electricity of Vietnam (EVN) and investors of transitional solar and wind plants to negotiate and agree to fix electricity prices before March 31.

Two arrested in 11kg drug transport from France to HCM City case

The Ho Chi Minh City Department of Public Security has just arrested two people involved in the case of transporting over 11 kilograms of narcotics and ecstasy from France to Tan Son Nhat International Airport, Vietnam.


Renowned Vietnamese artists collaborate on unique porcelain artworks


Dragon fruit export turnover reaches 47 million USD

Boxer beats Spainish rival to advance to World Championship’s semifinals

Vietnamese boxer Nguyen Thi Tam trounced Spanish rival Laura Fuertes 5-0 in the women's light flyweight category to advance to the semifinals of the IBA Women’s World Boxing Championships in New Delhi.