AEROSPACE CONTROL OFFICER
IN THE CANADIAN FORCES
CAPTAIN SHANNON ARCHER: I’m Captain Shannon Archer from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. I’m an Aerospace Control Officer currently posted at 14 Wing Greenwood, Nova Scotia.
Aerospace Control, or AEC, Officers play an important role in North American airspace. They work as air traffic controllers in control towers and terminals on Royal Canadian Air Force bases in Canada, expertly guiding aircraft through the skies using visual and instrument flight rules.
ARCHER: One of the great things about becoming an Aerospace Controller are – we get to work domestically and help Canada with their mission, but we also have the opportunity to deploy. The DART for example, we were in Haiti, where we set up an airfield and brought in aid.
AEC Officers also serve as Air Battle Managers in air defence and air operations command centres all over the world – both on the ground, and in the air onboard command and control aircraft called AWACS. Air Battle Managers conduct a variety of missions – from counter-drug operations to full-spectrum combat. Each of these missions are unique and require detailed planning. As tactical command and control experts, Air Battle Managers position aircraft, sensors, and airborne systems to maximize the combat capability of the RCAF and Allied forces.
At the Canadian Air Defence Sector in North Bay, Ontario, Aerospace Control Officers lead highly trained teams that monitor a web of radar-tracking stations that keep track of all air traffic over North America. They are responsible for detecting threats to Canadian sovereignty, making critical real-time decisions if an intruder or threats are detected – safeguarding the airspace above our country.
ARCHER: People ask me a lot if this job is stressful. I’d have to say, yes it is stressful, but in a good way. I thrive off the stress that this job does provide – the ever-changing dynamic and the ultimate unknowns that are going to happen every day, is really what I thrive on and what most air traffic controllers really drive themselves towards.
Other postings for AEC Officers include supporting joint forces by going to sea onboard Canadian warships as maritime fighter controllers, and coordinating close-air support for the Army.
Aerospace Control Officers also conduct a variety of space operations. With specialized training in space science, they lead skilled teams that track space objects in orbit and identify potential collisions or threats to allied space systems. They also provide critical space-based information to operational combat units, and send missile warning information to NORAD for the defence of North America and for the safety of deployed Canadian forces globally.
ARCHER: The coolest part of being an Aerospace Controller is the ability to speak to aircraft and assist the Canadian Forces in completing their mission. Each day I come to work, I look forward to interacting with not only the people, but the different challenges and opportunities, the different environments that I get to work in. It’s an exciting new challenge every day.
After their initial occupation training, AEC Officers trained as Air Traffic Controllers are typically posted to a military air traffic control centre at one of the RCAF’s six major air bases in Canada.
Aerospace Control Officers initially trained as Air Battle Managers are normally posted to the Canadian Air Defence Sector, to a combat reporting centre, or to NORAD’s various Battle Control Centres in the United States.
In all settings, Aerospace Control Officers will have the opportunity to lead and manage small teams. And as their careers progress, those leadership roles and responsibilities will continue to expand, with many opportunities for continuous professional development, academic advancement and specialized training.
ARCHER: Attributes to become an Aerospace Controller: you need to be able to make decisions, make yourself a plan, implement your plan, assess your plan, and make changes. You need to have high levels of integrity, call yourself on errors and make sure you can fix your errors. You need to be able to multi-task and prioritize information as it’s coming to and from.
ARCHER: There’s definitely days that I sit up in the tower or down in the radar sector when I get excited. I realize that this is what I get to do for a living. Not only am I an air traffic controller, part of the Aerospace Control trade, but I’m in the Air Force and I get to be a part of the bigger picture. I get to control aircraft, something that not a lot of people are able to do. I get to work in different places around the world, around Canada. The views are spectacular. I love my job when I come to work every day.
AEROSPACE CONTROL OFFICER
IN THE CANADIAN FORCES