IFR, VFR and Tower salaries

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takingcharge
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IFR, VFR and Tower salaries

#1 Post by takingcharge » Tue Sep 16, 2014 11:40 am

Hi all,

I am in the process of 'taking charge' of my career. Green lights all around in YUL FIR. I do, however, have some questions I was too embarrassed to ask the interviewers.

Is there a list of towers sorted by their salary level (ie ATC 1-7) ? I've been searching for hours and have only found a few random airports mentioned and none of the smaller Quebec towers.

I keep reading about low qualification rates for IFR. Does this mean that many people who start training don't check out? Or does this refer to low % of initial applications who check out? I ask because I'm torn between IFR and VFR. I've been placed in the IFR stream, which means I'm also in the pool for VFR courses (right?). I would hate to 'waste' this opportunity by going IFR and being one of the (seemingly) many to fail...

IFR benefits seems to include top salary (ATC6 or ATC7 from what I've read), more stability (since there is one ACC/FIR). But a major downside from my research is the low qualification %, so maybe I'll never make it to the end of training... (Also the fact that these awesome huge airplanes are reduced to blips on a screen).
VFR benefits include being able to see the planes, the outdoors, it probably feels more 'real' when you see planes taking off and landing, in addition to higher qualification %. But disadvantages are more relocations during a career, lower salary for the first years (until a transfer to a more complex tower).

Back to questions... How many hours/shift does a tower controller actually work? I heard that IFR can have 3hrs of breaks if it isn't too busy. In Montreal anyway, they are in a nice area with greenspace around, bike trails. They have a gym etc plenty of ways to destress. Do tower controllers get as much break time? Do towers have the same kind of facilities to destress (gym, games etc)?

Thanks in advance!
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Braun
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Re: IFR, VFR and Tower salaries

#2 Post by Braun » Wed Sep 17, 2014 3:43 am

takingcharge wrote:Hi all,

I am in the process of 'taking charge' of my career. Green lights all around in YUL FIR. I do, however, have some questions I was too embarrassed to ask the interviewers.

Is there a list of towers sorted by their salary level (ie ATC 1-7) ? I've been searching for hours and have only found a few random airports mentioned and none of the smaller Quebec towers.

I keep reading about low qualification rates for IFR. Does this mean that many people who start training don't check out? Or does this refer to low % of initial applications who check out? I ask because I'm torn between IFR and VFR. I've been placed in the IFR stream, which means I'm also in the pool for VFR courses (right?). I would hate to 'waste' this opportunity by going IFR and being one of the (seemingly) many to fail...

IFR benefits seems to include top salary (ATC6 or ATC7 from what I've read), more stability (since there is one ACC/FIR). But a major downside from my research is the low qualification %, so maybe I'll never make it to the end of training... (Also the fact that these awesome huge airplanes are reduced to blips on a screen).
VFR benefits include being able to see the planes, the outdoors, it probably feels more 'real' when you see planes taking off and landing, in addition to higher qualification %. But disadvantages are more relocations during a career, lower salary for the first years (until a transfer to a more complex tower).

Back to questions... How many hours/shift does a tower controller actually work? I heard that IFR can have 3hrs of breaks if it isn't too busy. In Montreal anyway, they are in a nice area with greenspace around, bike trails. They have a gym etc plenty of ways to destress. Do tower controllers get as much break time? Do towers have the same kind of facilities to destress (gym, games etc)?

Thanks in advance!
Hey,

First of all good luck with whatever route you take, none will be easy. I can answer most of your questions but first of all you seem to have a lot of information already so just try to not take everything you hear too seriously. There are some people who say things which they have no clue about.

For the salary issue all the salaries, like you said, are rated from ATC 1-7. ATC7 is a supervisor rate. An IFR controller is ATC6 and after that depending on where you work you get an operational premium. The premium is calculated for the whole ACC depending on traffic levels. As an IFR controller in your first year you would make about 105K.

I don't have specific numbers as for qualification rates IFR vs VFR. I doubt they are much higher VFR. All I can say is don't let that guide your decision. If you start either course with the idea in your head you won't make it you're going to have a hard time. As for the blips on the screen thing vs. seeing the aircraft I personally feel it is overrated. I like giving vectors, speeds and altitude changes to planes. I find my job very rewarding. Don't get me wrong I am sure tower is rewarding job as well but I personally prefer talking to airplanes in the air than trucks and snowplows. (No offence tower controllers). I am sure seeing outside and the airplanes is fun at first but after a year or two I am sure it wears off a bit. I am huge airplane fan so I had the same questions as you but now that I am IFR I would probably not go VFR. I am sure a lot of VFR controllers will say the same about IFR!

A standard shift is 8.5 hours maximum length is 12 hours. Overtime is paid double and you can do a maximum of 96 OT hours per 56 days. I don't know who you told you we GET 3 hr breaks but I can guarantee we sometimes get much less when we are short staffed. We also sometimes get a bit more if it isn't busy and we have a full roster for that day.

Also, breaks are different everywhere and depend on traffic and what positions are open etc...you can't really say at XXX twr they get this vs XXX who gets that...it all depends!

One last thing, if you go VFR and decide to move to a more complex tower after a few years you are by no way guaranteed that you will qualify.

Tell yourself this, if they put you in the IFR pool it is because you meet certain profile they are looking for. If you are interested in being an ATC I would accept whatever they offered. Anyways, after a few years, you can go from IFR to VFR.

Good luck
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takingcharge
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Re: IFR, VFR and Tower salaries

#3 Post by takingcharge » Wed Sep 17, 2014 3:53 pm

Thanks for the detailed and reassuring reply Braun.

Finally, if I get offered a VFR course before IFR, then declining VFR = taking a gamble of sorts right? In the sense that I may not be high enough in the IFR pool to get a spot on course. I guess that's another factor that'll come into play when/if the time comes...

Cheers
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wordstwice
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Re: IFR, VFR and Tower salaries

#4 Post by wordstwice » Wed Sep 17, 2014 7:24 pm

My advice to you is, keeping in mind we dont know each other and what your ultimate goals are, never turn down any offer from Nav Canada.

There are many benefits to go VFR first. The initial course is cheaper, you start getting paid quicker, and the tower exposure will help you if you do go IFR down the road. Also, like the previous poster mentioned, a few years after you qualify you can bid to go IFR if you want.

You seem to think VFR is easier than IFR, that it not always the case. Going to Pearson tower as your first posting, for example, can be extremely difficult and you should never minimize the amount of work ahead of you as a Tower controller.

Ive done both and for me IFR is more enjoyable but I value my tower experience and one day will definitely go back there.

Hope that helps.

PS, $105000 as a starting salary is a bit on the low side IMO. First year ATC-6 is 96k roughly and premium can be as high as 30,500 on top of that. Add all the extras we get plus a bit of overtime and you can easily see north of $150,000 in your first year. (Overtime is not always available nor does everyone work it)
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Re: IFR, VFR and Tower salaries

#5 Post by Braun » Wed Sep 17, 2014 8:28 pm

Just to clarify, base salary IFR first year in montreal is about 110K. Of course you can add OT which can considerably augment your salary but I don't like calculating with OT. That being said, I made over 150K in my first year. Nonetheless good advice from the above poster and yes I believe any offer from Nav canada should be considered seriously if you wanna become ATC.
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takingcharge
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Re: IFR, VFR and Tower salaries

#6 Post by takingcharge » Thu Sep 18, 2014 10:32 am

Thanks wordstwice.

I'm not underestimating the difficulty of the training either VFR nor IFR (though I am probably under-stressing haha). I'm a dedicated student and have always worked my butt off at 'school' (university & training for other jobs). I am slightly worried by the qualification percentage rumours because I've always assumed people who make it this far must be (at least!) equally as intelligent and dedicated as I am.

That said, maybe I'm over-stressing about the importance of my first posting? I happen to know the next VFR course is before the next IFR course in Montreal, so I assume the invites will go out for VFR before IFR. From what I gather, if I'm invited to the VFR course, it would be prudent of me to accept the offer and become a VFR controller. Then, in a few years, depending how things are going, how good I am at my job and whether or not I want new experiences/go back into training I can bid to change to IFR or more complex tower.

However, if offered VFR course, any chance they would allow a conditional acceptance? For example: "Yes! Unless you want to invite me to the IFR course in a couple of months." Since they are the ones who put me in the IFR pool it might be in Nav-Canada's best interest to have me on their IFR course.

And still no ideas for ATC level of Montreal FIR towers eh? i.e. YRC, YQB, YHU, YJN, YOW.
In terms of dollars, I'm not worried. I know that any controller job will have me set for life and, being prudent with my money, will leave me with a nice nest egg for my retirement. I'm just curious about how the towers compare to make a the most informed decision when (if !) the time comes.

Cheers and thanks again
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Re: IFR, VFR and Tower salaries

#7 Post by Braun » Thu Sep 18, 2014 11:30 am

I'll get back to you tonight with VFR scales.
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thenoflyzone
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Re: IFR, VFR and Tower salaries

#8 Post by thenoflyzone » Fri Sep 19, 2014 1:05 pm

takingcharge wrote:
And still no ideas for ATC level of Montreal FIR towers eh? i.e. YRC, YQB, YHU, YJN, YOW.
YUL ATC-6
YQB ATC-3
YOW ATC-4
YHU ATC-3
YRC ATC-1
YJN ATC-1
takingcharge wrote:I'm just curious about how the towers compare to make a the most informed decision when (if !) the time comes.
Last i heard, YUL wasn't taking ab-initio trainees. So count that one out. So your ranges are from ATC-1 to 4. I know YOW is short staffed, so you might end up there. YQB and YHU should also be high on the hiring list.

All three are very good towers for ab-initios. YOW, with 70% jet traffic 30% props, YQB, the exact opposite, and YHU....well...Chinese students in the circuit with a touch of Pascan.....

Thenoflyzone

Edit: YHU pay scale
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Last edited by thenoflyzone on Sun Nov 13, 2016 7:31 am, edited 1 time in total.
us Air Traffic Controllers have a good record ! We haven't left one up there yet !

takingcharge
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Re: IFR, VFR and Tower salaries

#9 Post by takingcharge » Sat Sep 20, 2014 1:37 pm

Thanks thenoflyzone.

Thanks again everyone for you help.

Cheers!
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j613
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Re: IFR, VFR and Tower salaries

#10 Post by j613 » Thu Nov 10, 2016 5:52 pm

Just reading this now but thanks everyone who contributed to this post! Very helpful.
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TGSky
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Re: IFR, VFR and Tower salaries

#11 Post by TGSky » Sun Nov 13, 2016 6:26 am

Braun wrote:
takingcharge wrote:Hi all,

I am in the process of 'taking charge' of my career. Green lights all around in YUL FIR. I do, however, have some questions I was too embarrassed to ask the interviewers.

Is there a list of towers sorted by their salary level (ie ATC 1-7) ? I've been searching for hours and have only found a few random airports mentioned and none of the smaller Quebec towers.

I keep reading about low qualification rates for IFR. Does this mean that many people who start training don't check out? Or does this refer to low % of initial applications who check out? I ask because I'm torn between IFR and VFR. I've been placed in the IFR stream, which means I'm also in the pool for VFR courses (right?). I would hate to 'waste' this opportunity by going IFR and being one of the (seemingly) many to fail...

IFR benefits seems to include top salary (ATC6 or ATC7 from what I've read), more stability (since there is one ACC/FIR). But a major downside from my research is the low qualification %, so maybe I'll never make it to the end of training... (Also the fact that these awesome huge airplanes are reduced to blips on a screen).
VFR benefits include being able to see the planes, the outdoors, it probably feels more 'real' when you see planes taking off and landing, in addition to higher qualification %. But disadvantages are more relocations during a career, lower salary for the first years (until a transfer to a more complex tower).

Back to questions... How many hours/shift does a tower controller actually work? I heard that IFR can have 3hrs of breaks if it isn't too busy. In Montreal anyway, they are in a nice area with greenspace around, bike trails. They have a gym etc plenty of ways to destress. Do tower controllers get as much break time? Do towers have the same kind of facilities to destress (gym, games etc)?

Thanks in advance!
Hey,

First of all good luck with whatever route you take, none will be easy. I can answer most of your questions but first of all you seem to have a lot of information already so just try to not take everything you hear too seriously. There are some people who say things which they have no clue about.

For the salary issue all the salaries, like you said, are rated from ATC 1-7. ATC7 is a supervisor rate. An IFR controller is ATC6 and after that depending on where you work you get an operational premium. The premium is calculated for the whole ACC depending on traffic levels. As an IFR controller in your first year you would make about 105K.

I don't have specific numbers as for qualification rates IFR vs VFR. I doubt they are much higher VFR. All I can say is don't let that guide your decision. If you start either course with the idea in your head you won't make it you're going to have a hard time. As for the blips on the screen thing vs. seeing the aircraft I personally feel it is overrated. I like giving vectors, speeds and altitude changes to planes. I find my job very rewarding. Don't get me wrong I am sure tower is rewarding job as well but I personally prefer talking to airplanes in the air than trucks and snowplows. (No offence tower controllers). I am sure seeing outside and the airplanes is fun at first but after a year or two I am sure it wears off a bit. I am huge airplane fan so I had the same questions as you but now that I am IFR I would probably not go VFR. I am sure a lot of VFR controllers will say the same about IFR!

A standard shift is 8.5 hours maximum length is 12 hours. Overtime is paid double and you can do a maximum of 96 OT hours per 56 days. I don't know who you told you we GET 3 hr breaks but I can guarantee we sometimes get much less when we are short staffed. We also sometimes get a bit more if it isn't busy and we have a full roster for that day.

Also, breaks are different everywhere and depend on traffic and what positions are open etc...you can't really say at XXX twr they get this vs XXX who gets that...it all depends!

One last thing, if you go VFR and decide to move to a more complex tower after a few years you are by no way guaranteed that you will qualify.

Tell yourself this, if they put you in the IFR pool it is because you meet certain profile they are looking for. If you are interested in being an ATC I would accept whatever they offered. Anyways, after a few years, you can go from IFR to VFR.

Good luck
Braun, what a great post. You answered some questions I didn't even know I had yet! Really glad I found this forum, your guys advice has been so helpful during each step of the process.
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Re: IFR, VFR and Tower salaries

#12 Post by Braun » Sun Nov 13, 2016 1:41 pm

TGSky wrote:
Braun wrote:
takingcharge wrote:Hi all,

I am in the process of 'taking charge' of my career. Green lights all around in YUL FIR. I do, however, have some questions I was too embarrassed to ask the interviewers.

Is there a list of towers sorted by their salary level (ie ATC 1-7) ? I've been searching for hours and have only found a few random airports mentioned and none of the smaller Quebec towers.

I keep reading about low qualification rates for IFR. Does this mean that many people who start training don't check out? Or does this refer to low % of initial applications who check out? I ask because I'm torn between IFR and VFR. I've been placed in the IFR stream, which means I'm also in the pool for VFR courses (right?). I would hate to 'waste' this opportunity by going IFR and being one of the (seemingly) many to fail...

IFR benefits seems to include top salary (ATC6 or ATC7 from what I've read), more stability (since there is one ACC/FIR). But a major downside from my research is the low qualification %, so maybe I'll never make it to the end of training... (Also the fact that these awesome huge airplanes are reduced to blips on a screen).
VFR benefits include being able to see the planes, the outdoors, it probably feels more 'real' when you see planes taking off and landing, in addition to higher qualification %. But disadvantages are more relocations during a career, lower salary for the first years (until a transfer to a more complex tower).

Back to questions... How many hours/shift does a tower controller actually work? I heard that IFR can have 3hrs of breaks if it isn't too busy. In Montreal anyway, they are in a nice area with greenspace around, bike trails. They have a gym etc plenty of ways to destress. Do tower controllers get as much break time? Do towers have the same kind of facilities to destress (gym, games etc)?

Thanks in advance!
Hey,

First of all good luck with whatever route you take, none will be easy. I can answer most of your questions but first of all you seem to have a lot of information already so just try to not take everything you hear too seriously. There are some people who say things which they have no clue about.

For the salary issue all the salaries, like you said, are rated from ATC 1-7. ATC7 is a supervisor rate. An IFR controller is ATC6 and after that depending on where you work you get an operational premium. The premium is calculated for the whole ACC depending on traffic levels. As an IFR controller in your first year you would make about 105K.

I don't have specific numbers as for qualification rates IFR vs VFR. I doubt they are much higher VFR. All I can say is don't let that guide your decision. If you start either course with the idea in your head you won't make it you're going to have a hard time. As for the blips on the screen thing vs. seeing the aircraft I personally feel it is overrated. I like giving vectors, speeds and altitude changes to planes. I find my job very rewarding. Don't get me wrong I am sure tower is rewarding job as well but I personally prefer talking to airplanes in the air than trucks and snowplows. (No offence tower controllers). I am sure seeing outside and the airplanes is fun at first but after a year or two I am sure it wears off a bit. I am huge airplane fan so I had the same questions as you but now that I am IFR I would probably not go VFR. I am sure a lot of VFR controllers will say the same about IFR!

A standard shift is 8.5 hours maximum length is 12 hours. Overtime is paid double and you can do a maximum of 96 OT hours per 56 days. I don't know who you told you we GET 3 hr breaks but I can guarantee we sometimes get much less when we are short staffed. We also sometimes get a bit more if it isn't busy and we have a full roster for that day.

Also, breaks are different everywhere and depend on traffic and what positions are open etc...you can't really say at XXX twr they get this vs XXX who gets that...it all depends!

One last thing, if you go VFR and decide to move to a more complex tower after a few years you are by no way guaranteed that you will qualify.

Tell yourself this, if they put you in the IFR pool it is because you meet certain profile they are looking for. If you are interested in being an ATC I would accept whatever they offered. Anyways, after a few years, you can go from IFR to VFR.

Good luck
Braun, what a great post. You answered some questions I didn't even know I had yet! Really glad I found this forum, your guys advice has been so helpful during each step of the process.
Glad we could help, we all come here because we have been through the same (or at least similar) process and we know how tough it is.
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