Which one is more stressful “air traffic control or pilot?

Air traffic controller (ATC) and pilot have different schedule of work and both involve high levels of stress due to the vigilant nature of their work. Both pilots and ATC can have an early morning, afternoon, and night shift. According to Stoke (1994) employees have a higher level error rate from 3am to 7am and working this shift schedule can affect both psychological and physical health over the year. This researcher indicated that psychology and biochemical variables such as heart rate and temperature are different. The average heart rate is normal in an afternoon shift and a morning shift has higher levels of fairly normal circadian rhythm. In addition, stress could be higher from the morning shift because of higher levels of workload and the fatigue effect on human systems. However, the researchers have shown that for ATC and pilots, the night shift can have a significantly lower of workload. The night shift is the only shift associated with circadian rhythm disruption. Circadian rhythm affects on the human ability is slim during the night shift, but they're no guarantee that night shift can avoid the psychological stress. As a result, afternoon and night shift work has reduced stress at work than the morning shift. ATC position is more stressful because hours are larger, pay is lower and condition is larger responsibility with thousands of lives on the ground and in the air.
Key reason ATC stressful than pilots
• ATC work involves being responsible for tower control, radar control, weather observation, etc. As a result, ATC personnel have to balance workload, responsibility and recognition, and then it can be assumed that ATC job has potential of stress.
• According to Stokes (1994) ATC job has a high level of workplace stress, and effect to human health in the long term period. ATC has the ability to increase health problems from hypertension and peptic ulcers, more than pilots or office jobs.
• The USA 2008, on up to 25,000 ATC personnel found the average incidence of hypertension and compared pilots and ATC. 0ne in five controllers has suffered borderline hypertension. This indicates that the ATC has twice the level rate and therefore more stress than pilots.
• Overall, in the USA from 1972 to 1977 there were 79 ATC personnel disqualified from the ATC work and 61 were affected by psychological problems over the year they worked as ATC.
• However, ATC duty required 40 hours per week or more and some are on call on the duty, if the airport weather change such as fog, or thunders light, ATC duty is directly increased. This is more than pilots spends on the job and is likely to increase stress.
• According to FAA (2012) average ATC salary received from $US32, 000 to $US166, 000. Due to lower pay rate, most ATC has significant problems with their finances while they’re on the job.
• ATC has to go home and make their food and doing the dishes after finish the meal compare to pilot professional and high quality foods.
Pilots working condition
• According to NZ CAA Act 1990 a pilot is required to fly for 30 hours or 35hours for 2 pilots in any 7 consecutive days. Most commercial airlines required 2 or 3 pilots working in the cockpit during long haul flight. This shows that pilots have multiple crews on their duty to help reduce individual stress.
• Crew duty rest period requires 12 hours per day and crew duty maximum 11 hours per day.
• Pilots are required to have a meal every 4 or 6 hours during the flight period.
• During long haul flight, pilot use auto pilot to assist their performance. This means that individual pilots have owner assistance to reduce stress in the cockpit.
• Most pilots have higher salaries than ATC. According to FAA (2012) the average commercial airline pilots received $US110, 000 per year. This shows that most pilots may have less worry about their financial problems and therefore less stress.
In conclusion, the ATC position is more stressful than being a pilot because they have larger responsibility to control lives in the air and on the ground in same time. Work hours, salary, foods, and workload is increase ATC daily live stress.

Stokes, A., & Kite, K. (1994). Flight stress : stress, fatigue, and performance in aviation / Alan F. Stokes, Kirsten Kite. Aldershot, Hants, England : Avebury Aviation ; Brookfield, Vt., USA : Ash
CAA (2006). Advisory circular,air oprerations, fatigues of flight crew. Retrieved 15/09/2012 from www.caa.govt.nz
FAA.(2012). Air traffic controllers. Retrieved 15/09/2012 from http://www.faa.gov/jobs/job_opportunities/airtraffic_controllers/

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