Introduction to Air Traffic Control


SYST 460/560


Spring 2005


TEXT BOOK: Fundamentals of Air Traffic Control (Michael S. Nolan) 4th Ed.



•         This course is intended to provide an introduction to Air Traffic Control (ATC) for those who plan to work or conduct research in the aviation industry.

•         It is a required course for those students interested in specializing in air transportation systems by taking more in-depth courses.

•         The course will survey the entire field, providing an understanding of the components and operation of the National Airspace System (NAS).

•         The course will include aircraft operations and systems, airline operations, air traffic control operations, systems and technologies, and the structure and functions of the FAA.

•         The course will include the measurement and study of the performance of the NAS.

•         The course will involve class participation, regular homework, simulation and modeling, site visits, and some field work collecting and analyzing data.

•         Course Objective: Students will learn the necessary basic knowledge in air traffic management of the national air transportation system. This course prepares students for work in the industry and for conduct of graduate studies and research.

•         Relationship to Other Courses: This is a required course for graduate students in air transportation systems. This course is prerequisite for SYST 660.




Jan 26 – 1st day – Course Overview, History of ATC (Nolan, Chap1)

Feb 2 – Aerodynamics (Handout)

Feb 9 – Navigation - Enroute (Chap 2 Nolan), GPS CBT

Feb 16 – Navigation - Approach (Chap 2 Nolan), Collaborative Decision Making (Handouts)

Feb 23 –- Navigation – Runway (Chap 2 Nolan), Command Center Tour (?)

Mar 2 – Air Traffic Control Structure (Chap 3 Nolan)

Mar 9 – Mid-term (Closed Book)

Mar 16 – Spring Break

Mar 23 – Air Traffic Control Communications (Chap 4 Nolan), Network Centric Operations (Handouts), Final Project Proposals Due

Mar 30 – Control Tower Procedures (Chap 6 Nolan)

Apr 6 – Non-Radar Enroute and Terminal Procedures (Chap 7, Nolan)

Apr 13 – Radar Separation Procedures (Chap 9 Nolan)

Apr 20 – Operation in NAS (Chap 10 Nolan)

Apr 27 – NAS Modeling & Simulation (Handouts)

May 4 – Last Class – Review, Final Projects Due

May 11 – Final Exam (Closed Book)


Textbook: Fundamentals of Air Traffic Control (Nolan)


*Subject to change without notice at the discretion of the instructor




Course Handouts and Homework:


Student obligations:

•         Weekly homework/quiz

•         turned in at start of class

•         Late penalty 10% 

•         Mid-term/Final Exam (Closed-book*)

•         Final Project*

•         Abstract due after Spring break

•         Final paper due last day of class



•         Homework/Quiz (25%)

•         Mid-term Exam (25%)

•         Class Project (25%)

•         Final Exam (25%)


Academic Honesty

•         Honor Code strictly enforced.

•         Suspected violations will be reported


Class Project

•         Undergraduates

•         10 - 20 page double space, with figures

•         Topics:

–        GPS/FMS Training Experiment

–        La Guardia Airport Modeling

–        MicroJets

–        UAVs: What is the Future

–        Airport Arrival/Delay Analysis

–        Matlab Modelling

•         Graduates

•         Topic: Collaborative Decision Making (CDM)

•         Final Report – How CDM Operates

–        What is the problem ?

–        What is the Conceptual Solution

–        What is the Physical Implementation (Tools)

–        Conclusions

•         Read literature. Work with industry partners

•         Meetings to coordinate


Office Hours: Wed 2:30-4:30pm or by appointment. Science & Tech II, Room 341




70% of the material is declarative knowledge (facts)

–        Example the “Class A airspace is from 18,000 ft MSL to FL600

–        You will be asked to demonstrate that you can retrieve these facts when asked

–        Studying is a memorization activity

–        Memorization requires repetition

–        Several repetitions (more than 5) each day

–        Several days (more than 4)

–        For example to be able to recall 8 items in a specific order requires 13 repetitions over a 6 day period

30% of the material is procedural knowledge (procedures using steps and rules)

•         Example, derive an equation, solve an equations

•         You will be asked to derive equations, solve equations

•         Studying is building conceptual understanding of the procedure

•         Use equations in different ways

•         Requires explicit model, repetitions