Six Things We Learned About Air Traffic Controllers From Matt Lauer
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Six Things We Learned About Air Traffic Controllers From Matt Lauer

Matt Lauer
Getty Images
Matt Lauer
Getty Images

TODAY show host Matt Lauer recently interned as an air traffic controller and we learned a lot.

As part of the TODAY show’s "Up for the Job" series, wherein all the hosts test out a bunch of career fields as interns, Matt Lauer opted to dive into the world of air traffic control, spending time at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport learning the ins and outs of airport operations.

The TV personality walked away without causing any disasters—though he did admit it he was a little over his head. "That's one of those jobs where you only hear about those people when something goes wrong,” he said. “But on a daily basis, they do that job so well, day in and day out."

He also gleaned a bunch of fascinating information about the biz. For example:

They Learn On A Simulator

Matt was shown the simulator on site that’s used to train future controllers. The setup replicates the JFK runways and can simulate conditions ranging from sunny skies to snow and rain.

What “Shoot the Gap” Means

Every profession has it’s own lingo, and for air traffic controllers one of the common sayings is “shooting the gap.” So, what does it mean? It’s when a controller is guiding two planes, one in and one out, on the same runway.

Controllers Don’t Work Longer Than Two Hours

Because the job takes so much concentration and a sharp mind, controllers aren’t allowed to work for long periods of time.

A Controller Can Speak to 60 Pilots at a Time

No wonder they need a break every couple of hours! Controllers can easily be talking to 10 pilots at one time. If there’s bad weather, it can jump up to 60.

JFK Airport is Like a City

The stats of New York City’s main airport hub are staggering. There are more than 50 miles of runways over 5,000 acres. What’s more, 1,000 flights, 90 airlines, and 150,000 passengers come through JFK every day.

The Average Retirement Age is 56

Since the job is so stressful and uses so much brainpower, Lauer revealed that it’s really a profession for newer members to the workforce. Many air traffic controllers end their career at 56. 

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