Aerospace Control Officer

Now hiring: we are now accepting applications for this job through Direct Entry and Paid Education.

Job description

Aerospace Control Officers contribute to air operations by providing air traffic control services and air weapons control.

Aerospace Control Officers are responsible for the conduct of aerospace surveillance, warning, and control of airborne objects throughout Canadian airspace. As an integral part of the Canadian Air Navigation System, they also provide control to civilian and military aircraft during combat and training operations worldwide.




I’m Captain Kristen Elliott from Middleton, Nova Scotia, an Aerospace Control Officer currently posted to 4 Wing Cold Lake. And I’m Captain Josh Riley from Ottawa, Ontario, an Aerospace Control Officer currently serving at 4 Wing Cold Lake.

ELLIOTT: Aerospace Control Officers have two primary roles. We work in towers and terminals as air traffic controllers, safely guiding aircraft to and from their destinations using visual and instrument flight rules.

I work in a control tower like you see here in the background. My main responsibility: provide a safe separation between the aircraft that are arriving and departing from the aerodrome here in the most safe, orderly and expeditious manner possible.

RILEY: We are also air weapons controllers, trained to detect threats, make friend-or-foe decisions in real time, scramble our fighter aircraft and, when necessary, use deadly force against aggressors.

ELLIOTT: We serve in command centres across North America, in Europe, the Middle East, and beyond; in the air, aboard specially equipped surveillance aircraft known as AWACs; at sea aboard Canadian Navy destroyers and frigates as Maritime Fighter Controllers, or in the field coordinating air support for the Army.

RILEY: A web of radar tracking stations blankets Canada from coast to coast to coast, all of them feeding into the Canadian Air Defense Sector in North Bay, Ontario. From here, we can get a closer look at any suspicious aircraft, and direct the teams who survey, identify, and intercept any intruder.

ELLIOTT: When one of our Aerospace Control Operators detects an intruder on their radar screen, somebody’s got to put their training and their leadership on the line and make the call.

RILEY: Whether it’s guiding a package of forty aircraft safely home to an Air Force base in Alberta, or tracking orbital space objects that could impact our communications satellites, Aerospace Control Officers lead teams of operators in dozens of monitoring stations around the globe.

ELLIOTT: We travel the world to serve with multinational task forces. Wherever we're posted, our mission remains the same: to provide cool, steady leadership to our operators, and safeguard the security of our skies.

ELLIOTT: The coolest part of the job is actually getting to do the job, and to sit in that seat, and talk to pilots on their radio, and make sure that they leave this base and get back here safely. It’s an adrenaline rush and it’s a challenge. RILEY: Fighter-jets, a CF-18 for example, have a radar that can see only where they point it. It’s almost like looking through a soda straw rather than what we use is a larger radar with a lot more power and a lot more range, and we get the God’s eye view. So we’re looking down on the fighters; we can see behind them and in front of them for miles and miles.

ELLIOTT: As far as the training to become an Aerospace Control Officer goes, once you complete your Basic Officer Training, you’ll head to the Canadian Forces School of Aerospace Control Operations in Cornwall, Ontario, for a seven-month course.

The emphasis is on real-world, real-time scenarios and simulations: air traffic control; aircraft performance and weapons systems; radar and threat alerts.

RILEY: After Cornwall, you’ll begin your training at an Aerospace Control Facility. When you’ve demonstrated your proficiency and passed an exam on local operating procedures, you’ll be licensed to control live aircraft, and ready to start your first assignment as an Aerospace Controller.

ELLIOTT: As an Aerospace Control Officer, your first posting may be to a Military Air Traffic Control centre at one of our bases here in Canada.

Once you reach your Wing, you’ll be a trainee in the seat for a period anywhere from two to nine months, and you do the job; you’re an air traffic controller, but the entire time you’re being monitored. Once you pass this checkout period, then you receive an air traffic control license and you get to sit in the seat and do the job on your own. My first time sitting in the seat as a qualified controller was probably the busiest day that I’d ever, ever controlled. I had about 20 aircraft that I was dealing with, but because of the crew that I was working with, we made it trough, and it was the most rewarding feeling. I can remember sitting back in my chair, everyone was down safe, and I did it all by myself without getting any advice from my monitor behind me.

You could also be assigned to the Canadian Air Defense Sector in North Bay, Ontario, to a Combat Operations unit, or to NORAD's Cheyenne Mountain Complex in Colorado Springs. or with NATO.

RILEY: A career in the Canadian Forces is extremely unique; it’s unlike anything else. You’re constantly doing different things. Your job changes on a regular basis each time you get posted, and even within your postings, your job can change. You can be a training officer; you can get involved in logistics and mobility operations… You’re never ever doing the same thing. RILEY: I’ve seen just about all of North America, I deployed twice to the Middle East… I think the coolest thing for me was being a part of something bigger, being a part of helping to make the world a better place, but being involved in things that the world knows about. Controlling and helping to save lives is very special. ELLIOTT: I always look forward to coming to work. One: I love my job. I love sitting in that seat and controlling. But two: I love the people that I work with. Everyday I come to work, everyone has a smile on their face, we all get along marvelously – it’s very, very cool.



Working environment

Aerospace Control Officers may be deployed to a ship, aircraft, or in the field throughout Canada, the United States and Europe. Initially, Aerospace Control Officers are employed as either air traffic controllers at Canadian military airbases, or in the air defence realm, controlling fighter aircraft at the Canadian Air Defence Sector.

Pay and career development

The starting salary for a fully trained Aerospace Control Officer is $67,500 per year; however depending on previous experience and training the starting salary may be higher. Aerospace Control Officers  who demonstrate the required ability, dedication and potential are selected for opportunities for career progression and advancement.

Related civilian occupations

  • Air Traffic Controller
  • Flight Service Specialist
  • Railway and Maritime Traffic Controller
  • Human Resources Manager
  • Airport Manager

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Basic military officer qualification

After enrolment, you start basic officer training at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, for 15 weeks. Topics covered include general military knowledge, the principles of leadership, regulations and customs of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), basic weapons handling, and first aid. Opportunities will also be provided to apply such newly acquired military skills in training exercises involving force protection, field training, navigation and leadership. A rigorous physical fitness program is also a vital part of basic training. Basic officer training is provided in English or French and successful completion is a prerequisite for further training.

Following basic officer training, official second language training may be offered to you. Training could take from two to nine months to complete depending on your ability in your second language.

Professional training

Aerospace Control Officers attend the Canadian Forces School of Aerospace Control Operations in Cornwall, Ontario, for three to five months. Aerospace Control Officer candidates learn to apply control techniques for both air defence and air traffic control duties. They also receive instruction and simulator training on the following topics:

  • Airborne weapons systems
  • Ground control systems and radar
  • Meteorology
  • Radiotelephony and procedure
  • Air regulations and navigation orders
  • Aircraft performance characteristics
  • Command and control directives governing the control of interceptor aircraft
  • Aerospace Control Officers are granted a licence in the control of live aircraft after passing an examination on local operating procedures.

Specialty training

Aerospace Control Officers may be offered the opportunity to develop specialized skills through formal courses and on-the-job training, including:

  • Airborne Warning and Control System
  • Space and Missile operations
  • Tactical Air Control Party (Land)
  • Maritime Fighter Control (Navy)

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Entry plans

Now hiring: we are now accepting applications for this job through Direct Entry and Paid Education.

If you already have a university degree, the CAF will decide if your academic program matches the criteria for this job and may place you directly into the required on-the-job training program following basic training. Basic training and military officer qualification training are required before being assigned.

Paid education

Regular Officer Training Plan

Because this position requires a university degree, the CAF will pay successful recruits to complete a bachelor degree program at a Canadian university. They receive full-time salary including medical and dental care, as well as vacation time with full pay in exchange for working with the CAF for a period of time. Typically, candidates enter the Canadian Military College System as an Officer Cadet where they study subjects relevant to both their military and academic career. In some instances, the CAF is able to pay for Officer Cadets to attend other Canadian universities in a relevant degree program.  Officer Cadets who attend other Canadian universities typically attend university during the regular academic year and participate in additional military training during the summer months.  If you choose to apply to this program, you must apply both to the CAF and the Canadian university of your choice. For more information, see Paid education.

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Part-time option

This occupation is available part-time within the following environment:  Air Force

Serve with the Reserve Force

This position is available for part-time employment with the Primary Reserve at certain locations across Canada. Reserve Force members usually serve part time at an Air Force wing in their community. They are not posted or required to do a military move. However, they can volunteer to move to another base. They may also volunteer for deployment on a military mission within or outside Canada.

Part-time employment

Aerospace Control Officers employed on a part-time or casual full-time basis usually serve at CAF bases and tactical units at locations within Canada.

Reserve Force training

This occupation is only open to members of the Regular Force who have been trained as Aerospace Control Officers and wish to transfer to the Reserve Force, or former military members who have the Aerospace Control Officer qualification.

Working environment

Air Reserve members are trained to the same level as their Regular Force counterparts and are employed in the same unit and perform the same job. Air Reserve members usually serve up to 12 days per month in a regular work day, with opportunities to serve full time for short durations as needed. Reserve Force members are paid 85 percent of Regular Force rates of pay, receive a reasonable benefits package and may qualify to contribute to a pension plan.

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