Isabelle Chan

Air Traffic Control Officer

My company and job

I’m a professional Air Traffic Control Officer (ATCO) with the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS). My place of work is at the Singapore Air Traffic Control Centre, where I guide pilots who are flying their aircraft within a 60 nautical mile radius from Singapore.

I also work at the Seletar Control Tower to direct aircraft that operate in and out of the Seletar Airport. While Changi Airport handles the larger commercial aircraft, the Seletar Airport caters to smaller aircraft for training and general aviation purposes.

The best bits 

I take pride that I am a member of a select group of professionals responsible for ensuring the safe and efficient flow of air traffic through the crowded skies. I also like that my job requires me to think on my feet and to make quick and sound decisions at all times. This valuable trait has now been ingrained in me, and has even proven to be an asset in my personal life.

My motivation at work is the drive to be effective and good at what I do as a professional ATCO. The continuous challenge to keep the skies safe and orderly, and the never-ending "puzzle" of sorting out air traffic on the ground before take-off motivates me and my fellow ATCOs to keep on improving.

My happiest moment

My happiest moments at work came from a few significant milestones in my career. The first was when I obtained the first rating qualification to work in Seletar Control Tower — this was the first major step of my career as a licensed Air Traffic Control Officer (ATCO). To get the first rating, every ATCO is required to pass a training course and undergo rigorous on-the-job training (OJT).

My second milestone was being awarded the qualifications to work in the Singapore Air Traffic Control Centre as a surveillance controller, after passing another set of training courses and OJT. The third milestone was particularly memorable. It was when the Seletar Control Tower shifted to its new premises after many years in a previous site. The migration to the new tower marked a new chapter in the history of Seletar Airport, and I am proud to have been part of it.

Getting the job 

Applicants have to undergo aptitude tests, voice tests, and a series of interviews during the selection process to become an ATCO. I felt that demonstrating my confidence and quick-thinking back then was what helped me land the job.

Be prepared

Personally, I feel that graduates entering the aviation industry should possess a positive and adaptable mindset. The aviation industry is growing at a tremendous pace, with the volume of air traffic on the rise all around the world. Many development and expansion plans are also afoot for the industry here in Singapore, such as Changi Airport's third runway and new Terminal 5. You'll need to understand how the industry and its traffic is changing, and learn to grow and progress along with it.

Some advice

For those who aspire to be an ATCO or join the aviation industry, I would advise you to be adaptable, develop a keen attention to detail, and cultivate perseverance and teamwork. These attributes will place you in good stead to follow plans and projects through, to grow with the aviation industry, and to learn much about this line of work.