We are the air traffic controllers of the Maastricht Upper Area Control Centre
Do you want to become an air traffic controller?
If you’re passionate about aviation and have great spatial skills, we can offer you an exciting opportunity to train as an air traffic controller, with the prospect of a rewarding career in a dynamic organisation to follow.
We are looking for people to join our multinational team of air traffic controllers at our Maastricht Upper Area Control Centre in the Netherlands.
A selection procedure is currently underway to find suitable candidates for the student air traffic controller trainings which are scheduled to start in February and October every year.
Specialised training is required before you can join this team of professionals. We will pay for that training, and we’ll also pay you a monthly allowance while you learn!
Being safety critical, the job carries a high level of responsibility, so the selection procedure is rigorous and the training is intensely challenging. But if you succeed, you will have an enormously rewarding and interesting career!
Air traffic control is used to separate aircraft safely – in the sky as they fly and at the airports where they land and take off again.
Air traffic controllers give instructions, advice and information to pilots so that they can fly safely, efficiently and quickly. Controllers keep track of flights by using radar and the latest computer systems.
Air traffic controllers need to be able to deal with unexpected events – changes in weather, unscheduled traffic, emergency situations.
Air traffic controllers can work at airports – in the airport tower overlooking the runways or on approach as they stream aircraft to arrive – or at en route centres.
Through this selection, we are looking for controllers to work at our en route centre.
What does the training involve?
Training to be an air traffic controller takes between three and three and a half years.
Training courses usually start in February and October each year; they include in-depth theoretical classes, training on simulators and intensive on-the-job training at the Maastricht centre. Start dates might be subject to change. For clarification on the exact dates please contact ATCO.email@example.com.
The theoretical part of the training is done at an aviation university in Toulouse; classes are in English. We will pay for this training and for your accommodation at the university. You will receive an allowance while you study.
If you pass the theoretical examinations, you will go to the Maastricht Centre for simulator and on-the-job training. When at the Maastricht centre, you will need to find and pay for your own accommodation – but we will help you look for a suitable place to stay.
Be free from any military service obligation at the start of your training
Have completed your secondary education at an advanced level, with mathematics as one of your subjects
What does the selection procedure involve?
Before you fill out the application form, please read the Notice of Competition for Student Air Traffic Controllers.
We will screen these forms. If you are suitable, you will receive an invitation to do an online reasoning ability test. If you have successfully passed this test, you will be invited to come to our Maastricht centre for tests and an interview.
If you pass these tests, you will undergo a thorough medical examination.
If everything is satisfactory, you will be invited to sign a contract to follow the training courses and to work for EUROCONTROL as an air traffic controller for at least four years.
You will need to provide supporting documents - your school-leaving certificate, for example - as well as security clearance from your national security authority.
Although knowledge of aviation is an advantage, it is not essential.
You can do some research on air traffic control; learn more about what EUROCONTROL does and what happens at the Maastricht centre. Familiarise yourself with the challenges and demands of the en route controller’s job. Read aviation magazines. The more you understand about the job you are applying for, the more comfortable you will feel.
However, it isn’t really possible to practice for the spatial orientation and psychometric tests beforehand. What matters more is your attitude: it is best to be positive, determined, open.
What do the selection tests involve?
The selection procedure is divided into several phases. You have to pass each phase before going on to the next one.
The first phase measures your basic skills in:
The second phase tests how well you apply those skills in working conditions. You are assessed on your:
You are also given a personality questionnaire to complete.
After this, you are interviewed by active controllers, psychologists, training and human resources experts. The interview panel will explore your motivation in becoming an air traffic controller. They will look at your background, education, work experience (if any) and your general career expectations.
Finally, they will assess your overall suitability for the career, weighing up your motivation, the degree to which you cooperate, your stress resistance and your level of interactive proficiency.
If you pass these phases successfully, you will undergo a medical examination.
How many candidates pass the tests?
The selection rate of a student controller recruitment campaign is about 6%. That means, for every hundred who are tested, six of them will meet our standards.
This might sound discouraging, but we do test most applicants who pass the basic requirements because, for us, spatial orientation skills, a good memory and resistance to stress are the most important features we look for – and we can only find out how good yours are by testing them.
How many students qualify after training?
Around 50% of the intake will finally qualify as air traffic controllers. This is not unusual: air traffic control is very demanding and we have to be certain that the people who qualify are really up to doing the work.
It is important to know that a student with unsatisfactory results can be dismissed at any stage. Students who are asked to leave do not have to reimburse any costs or money that they have been given.
But don’t let this put you off applying: other jobs and examinations are also difficult. You should try to make sure that you use the feedback – and criticism! – that you are given during your training to improve your performance overall. Keep your end goal in mind and be determined to succeed.
Is it really stressful, being an air traffic controller?
Controllers are selected for a number of qualities. We look for people who are able to:
stay calm under pressure;
make decisions while processing different types of information;
update a mental spatial picture;
These abilities are tested to see if you have them to begin with - and they are developed and extended with rigorous training. You will be fully trained to cope with all aspects of your job.
Our controllers at Maastricht said in a recent survey that they feel unafraid of their work; they are not nervous about problems they encounter; they are able to relax when they need to. You will always be supported by colleagues who deal with the same issues and who will be able to help you confront them. Your training will enable you to handle the problems you will face.
I applied before but failed the tests. Can I apply again?
You may apply once more but only after two years have lapsed. Retesting is only done once.
What does the medical examination involve?
It is very important that controllers are fit enough to do their work so the medical examination is a vital element of the testing procedure. If you become an air traffic controller, you will undergo medical examinations throughout your career.
You will need to obtain the following document (pdf).
There should be no hearing loss in either ear, when tested separately, of more than 20 dB (HL) at any of the frequencies 500, 1,000 and 2,000 Hz, or of more than 35 dB (HL) at 3,000 Hz.
You must have normal colour vision and your visual acuity must be 6/9 or better in each eye separately and 6/6 together.
You may use corrective lenses but there are limits to the amount of correction required. Correction shall not exceed + 5 or – 6 dioptres equivalent spherical error in each eye.
Cylindrical correction shall not exceed 2 dioptres in each eye.
If you have had any form of eye surgery, including laser visual correction, then you are, in principle, disqualified. However, if after extensive ophthalmological testing, the Authorised Medical Supervisor is satisfied, then you may be assessed as fit, providing that before surgery your vision was between +5 and -6 dioptres.
You should have normal blood pressure and no disease of the cardiovascular system.
You should not have:
a risk of cerebral dysfunction
epilepsy (although ten years without a seizure and without medication may be accepted)
any progressive disease of the nervous system.
You should have no significant respiratory disease.
Urinary system and gastro-intestinal tract
You should have no significant disease.
Drugs and alcohol
Alcohol consumption is strictly controlled and recreational drug use is forbidden for trainees and controllers.
What hours does a controller work?
Air traffic control is 24/7, 365 days of the year, so controllers work in shifts.
Generally, controllers work four eight-hour shifts, followed by two rest days. As a rule, controllers work for one and a half hours at a time, with a half hour break.
There are many different shifts with staggered starting times to allow for efficient planning. If you need time off for personal reasons, requests can be considered when duties are assigned.
What is the salary like?
Air traffic controllers have responsible and demanding work and the salary is commensurate.
You will have a basic salary with additions, depending on your circumstances. If you are married or have a child, you will receive a household allowance. You are given a child’s allowance for each child and, if your children are at school or university, an education allowance.
Expatriates are given an allowance of an extra 16% of their basic salary: this allowance is not paid to trainees.
Deductions for your pension scheme (10% - but this is not applied during your training) as well as for your membership of EUROCONTROL’s medical insurance (1.6%) are made from your salary.
Once you have qualified and are licensed as an air traffic controller, you will begin working at the Maastricht Upper Area Control Centre as an "advanced trainee air traffic controller" with a single sector validation. After further validation, you will be promoted to "air traffic controller".
Monthly net salary for single nationals:
Advanced trainee air traffic controller - around €3,200
Air traffic controller - around €3,750
Monthly net salary for single expatriates:
Advanced trainee air traffic controller – around €3,800
Air traffic controller – around €4,500
For controllers working 24/7 shifts, there is a flat rate shift allowance of around €1,500.
Which language is spoken?
English is the internationally accepted language of air traffic control.
Your training will be done in English and all tests are in English. When you are an air traffic controller, your working language will be English.
You will need proficiency in English in order to do the selection tests.
Knowledge of Dutch, German and French will help you integrate into the communities in Maastricht.
I submitted my application. What happens next?
We will screen your application. If you are suitable, you will be invited to come to our Maastricht centre for tests and interviews. For questions about your application, please email ATCO.firstname.lastname@example.org.
I started my career as a flight service officer in Australia in 1989. However, this post was being phased out, so my employer (the civil aviation authority) offered me two options: redundancy or retraining as a civil ATCO via a conversion course at the University of Tasmania. I was subsequently checked out as an air traffic controller in Sydney in 1993. In 1995, the en route sectors were being merged between two centres (Brisbane and Melbourne) and my en route sectors were moved from Sydney to Brisbane. I became an OJTI during 1995. I intended to remain an Australian ATCO and maybe move into the tower or approach stream over time but things changed...
In 2000, I read an article about EUROCONTROL in Flight International magazine. The Director General had apparently decided to waive the criteria regarding nationality -(Australia is not a Member State of EUROCONTROL)- and so I decided to apply. I started with EUROCONTROL in July 2001 with four other conversion controllers and was attached to an ab initio course and assigned to the DECO sectors. I successfully completed my training on the DECO sectors in 2002. My career progressed at EUROCONTROL firstly as an on-the-job officer refresher trainer and afterwards a team leader in the training section.
In 2010, I left the training section, as a new roster was implemented which allowed much greater flexibility than was previously possible. I decided to start commuting between the Netherlands and Australia. I pulled together all my working days as far as possible and essentially worked only during the European summer, a few weeks around Christmas and a few weeks in February, and spent the rest of the time in Australia with my family. So basically I had best of both worlds, as I enjoyed the summer in two hemispheres.
In 2016, I decided to come back to Maastricht and moved to the Brussels sectors, as I needed a change. A year later, I became a room supervisor, and since the summer of 2019 I have been the Head of the ATM Training Section. I’ve always had a keen interest in training and wanted to use my operational background from two different organisations to tailor the training in the way I believe it should be. My main objective in this role is to increase the quality and efficiency of the training, and yes, that means that some things will be done differently in the near future. I also would like to expand my training vision to include the whole ATM Division, and hence not only focus on ab initio training. Lastly, I would like the training section to be more involved in projects of different nature from the early stages, in order to develop our staff and to increase our expertise.
As you can read from my story, being an air traffic controller is amazing! I value the many opportunities, the change and the flexibility this job has given me in the development of my career. It comes with challenges, especially during the training, but the feeling of achievement from a difficult day with weather or heavy traffic is rewarding. This, combined with a fantastic salary, a lot of time off and the friendships you develop with colleagues from all over Europe, can’t be beaten. In addition there aren’t too many jobs which are recession-proof, so it has to be the best job in the world, with EUROCONTROL being one of the best employers in the world!
Just go for it
When I was in secondary school, I already knew I wanted to have an exciting career so I decided to study at the National Aviation University in Kiev. During my studies, I applied to become an Air Traffic Controller in the Ukraine but didn’t pass the selection process. So I explored other options and applied for a traineeship at the EUROCONTROL Headquarters in Brussels. I have not regretted that decision for one second! For more than a year, I worked side by side with the engineers who make this organisation a leader in its field day in, day out. That is why my main message to young people is to explore new things and just go for it! In the worst-case scenario, you will gain priceless life experience.
During my stay in Brussels, I applied at the Maastricht Upper Area Control Centre and started my ATCO training in February 2017, as one of the ten students of Ab Initio 70. The rest is history...
The first year of training in Toulouse was unforgettable. I see it as the last year of my “student” life and I had an amazing time there. The training was tough and intense, and the support received from fellow students was key to success. They were in the same shoes as me, so they really knew what I was going through. I am very grateful that we could do this together. In addition, it was an opportunity for me to discover a new city and region and to have lots of fun. I can’t wait to return to Toulouse one day as a coach and to share my experience with new students.
When I finished my training in Toulouse and came back to Maastricht, I rented a house together with three other students. It’s helpful to be able to share your questions and concerns with your friends over a beer or two.
What I particularly appreciate in the training is the fact that it is built in such a way as to maximise your chances of being successful. My coaching team is great and they provide me with all the necessary support and motivation to make sure I get my full ATCO license one day.
You might wonder whether I miss my family and friends from the Ukraine. I’ve made a lot of new friends here, and thanks to modern technology, there are many ways to stay in touch. I, for instance, have a weekly video call with my family. And I remind myself every now and then that I’m here for a reason – that also helps to put things into the right perspective.
It has been an amazing journey
Although the Maastricht Upper Area Control Centre is close to my hometown, it was only by coincidence that a family friend introduced my sister and me to the world of ATC about 30 years ago. Only then did we discover the existence of EUROCONTROL. My sister Ellen applied to EUROCONTROL first and also became an ATCO. She started her training two years before I did. She has been a huge support to me and I think it is very special that two local girls with no specific background in aviation have ended up here at the Maastricht Upper Area Control Centre. Working in an international environment so close to our hometown has made this job very special and interesting for us.
I started my ATCO training in 1991, together with 12 other students. Five of us finally obtained our ATCO license. Two years later, I decided to share my knowledge with our ATCO students and became a coach. Gradually I got more and more involved in training activities, e.g. in refresher training and team resources management.
I have been an ATCO for 27 years, and it has been an amazing journey. But as I wanted to continue my development, I applied for a position in the training section. I always knew that training young students for a great and special job such as that of ATCO would be very rewarding for me. And it eventually led me to my current job as ATC Instructor.
I have seen the training of our ATCO students change over the years. Providing ‘coaching’ to our students has become increasingly important, hence the approach to training has become more tailored. Today our students get all the support and balanced advice they need to be successful – more so than when I was in training.
The human being behind the student also gets more attention. The “Energy” project in which I was greatly involved is a perfect example of this. It gives our ATCOs the opportunity and tools to strike a better work-life balance, to eat healthily, to manage stress and to deal with today’s more demanding lifestyle. I am very happy to see that the latest generations of students seem to believe that all of this is indeed very important in order to have a successful ATCO career.
What I also like about the job of ATCO is the free time it offers you. There is plenty of time to pursue several hobbies. I have developed a genuine interest in yoga, and I believe that it has helped me a lot in my personal development and my work-life balance. I’m very grateful for all the opportunities which have arisen in my life thanks to my job at EUROCONTROL.
Work hard, play hard
I first came across ATC during my studies in Applied Earth Sciences at the Technical University of Delft. I read about it when I was doing some research for a project I was working on. It immediately drew my attention, hence I started to look for more information on the Internet. Before I knew it, I had participated in the open days at LVNL, the Dutch Air Navigation Service Provider, had applied and was selected. In the end though, I didn’t start the actual ATCO training as I was unfortunately stopped during an eight-week pre-training course.
I was obviously very disappointed and started looking for other opportunities in ATC. That is how I learned about the existence of EUROCONTROL and the Maastricht Upper Area Control Centre. I was immediately attracted by the international environment and eager to go abroad for a year. So I applied, was successful in the selection process and started my training in October 2017. I was the only girl in a group of 15 students but I didn’t mind. The guys were very nice to me and becoming an ATCO was what I really wanted.
After a year in Toulouse and six months in the simulator at MUAC, I started the on-the-job training in June 2019 in the Brussels sectors. Even though I sometimes miss being in Toulouse, I have gotten to know many new people here at MUAC and am very happy to be taking the next step in my training. I was a bit nervous on the first day in the operations room as I was no longer in a simulator environment. But I have a team of five coaches – a prime coach, training officer and three other coaches – who constantly support and encourage me. They give me the confidence I need to be able to further develop myself in this very demanding but also rewarding environment. They also have their own approach and style of coaching, but I find that very interesting as it helps to see some aspects of the job from a different perspective.
As this job is quite intense, you have a break of at least half an hour every two hours. There are many ways to relax in our Centre. For instance, you can go to the gym, play a game of basketball in the sports hall or play the piano in the music room. I like to play pool and enjoy hanging around a bit with colleagues during my breaks.
Once per year, we also have a ladies’ lunch with all the female controllers of the Brussels sectors – a great initiative to show that it’s not only about work here at MUAC, but rather our motto is ‘work hard, play hard’.
If you do not try, you will never know whether it is something for you
I started my ab initio training in 1993, as a student in ab initio 18. A friend of mine had read an article about air traffic control and thought it might be something for me. I found out more about the job and as it looked quite interesting, I applied to EUROCONTROL and NATS, the English air navigation service provider. At the same time, and since aviation in general is a passion of mine, I also applied to become a pilot in the navy. EUROCONTROL responded very quickly to my application and after a successful selection process, I was offered the possibility to start training.
After 10 years in the operations room in the Hannover sectors, I was asked to get involved in a side-track activity to bring the ops user requirements for the new air traffic control system, working 50% of my working time in the office, in what has now become the System Monitoring and Revision Team (SMART). At the end of 2007, I left the Ops Room to start working as Executive Manager Infrastructure. In that role, I was responsible for responding to day-to-day system, airspace and procedural problems from the Ops Room and to follow these up with Engineering or the airspace designers.
Today, I am working as Operations Manager Airspace Systems and Procedures, which is still a role in between the Operations Room and Engineering. I have never had a clear career plan in mind, but having an operational background opens the door to many other opportunities at the Maastricht Upper Area Control Centre (MUAC), as a side-track to, or perhaps instead of, being an air traffic controller. I still enjoy being an air traffic controller and continue to maintain my licence. My current work requires me to be very flexible in my thinking, often jumping from topic to topic, whilst working in the Operations Room, the focus, as well as the responsibilities, are crystal clear: working alongside professional colleagues who know their responsibilities and how to work together as a team to safely control the MUAC airspace.
I have always liked the technical side of things as well, so I am very happy that I can combine those two passions in my current role. You have definitely more time off when working in the Operations Room, but one of the advantages of doing an office job is that it is a lot easier to participate in activities like yoga, Pilates, badminton championships, the diversity and inclusion think tank and many others. I still work three to four hours a week as an air traffic controller to keep my licence valid. That way, I also keep a close connection to the Operations Room, systems and my Ops Room colleagues.
MUAC is a great place to work and I can recommend it to everyone. Our standards are very high so it is not easy to get in, but if you do not try you will never know whether it is something for you.
Kevin DE KROES - Air Traffic Controller
Nina STILLER - Air Traffic Controller
Air Traffic Control in Europe
How to become an air traffic controller
Life as an air traffic controller
Work and life at MUAC
How Air Traffic Control Works
The journey of becoming an air traffic controller at the Maastricht Upper Area Control Centre