Peter Duffey, president and CEO of the Canadian Air Traffic Control Association, on what it takes to maintain focus when distraction is not an option:
“As much as you would think that this job is about singular tasking, at the same time there are always things going on around us that we absolutely have to pay attention to. If you’re in a control tower and you’re talking to the airplanes that are taking off, you also have to coordinate with another controller controlling the airplanes that are on the ground, and you have to interface with computers that are keeping track of everything that’s going on. You will have people from other units calling you on hotlines which may pop into your headset; your telephone might be ringing. There are all sorts of things sometimes requires your attention.
“You have to be able to tune out any distractions that aren’t related to the job.
“In the control tower, you have to stay very focused on the task at hand, which is concentrating on the airplane and making sure there are no problems. It’s a learned skill. I’ve found that to stay singularly focused, you have to be well-rested. One of the biggest barriers to concentration is fatigue. You’ve got to take care of yourself, especially your mind. You need a good eight hours’ sleep and a positive attitude if you want to be able to focus amid the strain of a stressful environment.”