Air Traffic Controllers’ Physical Fitness Programme

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Air Traffic Controllers’ Physical Fitness Programme

22ND ANNUAL CONFERENCE, Split, Yugoslavia, 21-25 March 1983

WP No. 63

Air Traffic Controllers’ Physical Fitness Programme


It is well known that the Air Traffic Controllers’ job is a very demanding one. The high standard of performance required to do this job contributes to an increase of mental fatigue. The profession of the Air Traffic Controller is considered to be a very stressful one.


The execution of the Air Traffic Controller’s job requires many demands upon the individual. The reaction to these demands is commonly called stress, i.e. the reaction of the individual to physical and psychical charges the frequency and strength of which may lead to organic damages.

The stress generated by the daily attacks we are exposed to or by the constraints of an average professional activity may easily be overcome by distraction and individual recreation. The stress and the mental fatigue generated by contradictory requirements and the uncertainty about the correct decision, or in ATC, the most expeditious way of solving problems may already prevent from sleeping. In ATC the amount of mental requirements is often very high and the effect of it may be worsened by the influence of environmental factors and lead to a nervous breakdown or cardio-vasculary diseases.

It is medically recognised that only a person in a good physical health is able to absorb the ATCO’s professional stress. Since prevention is the best insurance, it is felt that a physical fitness programme should be designed on a preventive basis and not only on a pathological basis.

In this context the Federal Republic of Germany has set up a programme of recreation cures for Air Traffic Controllers. The German controllers may regularly attend recreation cures lasting 27 to 29 days. These cures take place in specific clinics having sports facilities where the physical exercise programme is set up by doctors after an entry examination. The annual medical examination to renew the ATCO’s licence is not affected by these cures. The annual leave of the individual controller is not affected by these cures and the costs of the cures are carried by the Government. These recreation cures are not affected by any other cures necessary for medical reasons. The controllers are entitled to these cures every four to five years.

It is of no doubt that prevention of any disease is of importance to aviation safety and certainly less expensive than training of new staff and/or retraining of controllers. Sub- Committee Medical feels that one of the best ways of preventing diseases is a physical fitness programme.


a) National administrations should consider the health of Air Traffic Controllers by setting up a physical fitness programme open to all controllers on a voluntary basis.

b) No direct relationship should exist between a physical fitness programme and annual medical examination (if any).

c) Participation in a physical fitness programme shall have no effect whatsoever on the controller’s annual leave or spare time and the costs involved shall be carried by the employer.

Last Update: September 20, 2020  

November 30, 2019   436   Jean-Francois Lepage    1983    

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