SYST 460/560/ OR 750 Introduction To Air Traffic Control (3: 3: 0)


 Prerequisites: graduate standing, STAT 344 and SYST 335, SYST 417.  OR 542 is encouraged as a co-requisite.


This course is intended as an introduction to Air Traffic Control (ATC) for those who plan professions in the aviation industry. It is a necessary introduction for students who will later specialize and take more in-depth courses.  The course will survey the entire field, presenting the history of ATC and how it came to be as it is, the technology on which the system is based, the procedures used by controllers to meet the safety and efficiency goals of the system, the organizational structure of the FAA, challenges facing the system and means under investigation to meet these challenges.  This course will involve some field work for data collection and analysis.  A class project requiring a system simulation will be required.



 Course Objective: Students will learn the necessary basic knowledge in air traffic management of today’s air transportation system.  This course prepares students for work in both industry and at a graduate level.


 Relationship to Other Courses: This is a required course for graduate students who want to study in the field of air transportation.  SYST 460 or 560 is a prerequisite to SYST 660.  Credit will not be given for both SYST 460 and 560.


Instructor:  Prof. George L. Donohue

Office: S&T II,  Hrs: 1 hr before class

Lab: S&T II, Rm 122


cell phone: 301-346-7498





Topic Outline:

1. History of ATC:

            Early development of control systems

            Involvement of the Federal government

            Key enabling and regulating legislation

            Emergence of the FAA

            Recent development issues (e.g., controller’s strike, 11 Sept. 2000, etc.)


2. System modernization:

            Motivation for modernization

            Key challenges faced by the system

            New technology and procedures to meet these challenges

3. Basic ATC Technology:

            Navigation systems

            Communications systems

            Surveillance systems (Radar, etc.)

            Weather systems

            Air Traffic Control and Traffic Management systems


4. Airport, Airspace and Aircraft Operations and Procedures:


            Terminal airspace

            En route airspace

            Radar and non-radar control

            Oceanic ATC

            Aircraft and Pilot controls



Airport operations data will be collected and analyzed as part of the course field work.  Visits to FAA control facilities are planned.


A Final Exam to satisfy the FAA Private Pilot written exam requirement to obtain a pilots license is available to interested students.



Course Texts:


Fundamentals of Air Traffic Control, 4th Edition, Michael Nolan, International Thomson Publishing, 2004.


Private Pilot Manual, Jeppesen, 2002.