The key objective of air traffic control is to ensure safety and to prevent collisions between aircraft, aircraft and terrain as well as to provide pilots in flight with necessary information (meteorological, aeronautical, etc.) on the radio, to ensure expediency and efficiency of flights as well as to provide alerting services to the aircraft requiring it. Air traffic control is provided by air traffic controllers with respective ratings.
Air traffic service is a complex activity, comprising:
- Provision of specific flight information to flight crews on the radio;
- Air traffic advisory service;
- Air traffic control;
- Alerting service.
Beginning from 1992 (less than 50 000 flights) the air traffic intensity has been almost always on the upturn. For example, in 2015 for the first time in history the number of flights exceeded 200 000.
The provision of air traffic services (by ATS Department) is closely knit with technical support and aeronautical information services. Together they make the so called common service pack, or air navigation services.
In accordance with international standards the controlled airspace is divided into 3 air traffic control units in order to fulfil different tasks: aerodrome control unit, approach control unit, area control centre. In addition to these services the ATS units also provide alerting service and flight information service.
- TWR (Tower Control Unit) e controls flights in the vicinity of aerodromes as well as traffic on the runway and taxiways. Tallinn TWR provides aerodrome control service at Tallinn aerodrome and in its vicinity, (10 NM) up to 1700 ft, ( 600m). Visual contact with the traffic is provided from TOWER cab (approximately 35 metres high),
- APP (Approach Control Unit) e controls arriving and departing traffic in the Terminal Manoeuvring Areas. The area of responsibility of APP is larger than that of TWR: it spreads out for 40 NM from Tallinn aerodrome and up to 9500 ft (3000 m) above the ground. The main tool of APP controllers is radar. Approach controllers are responsible for sequencing arriving traffic for landing and for providing separation between departing and arriving aircraft.
- ACC (Area Control Centre) mainly provides services to en-route traffic through entire Estonian airspace between 9500 ft (3000 m) and 66000 ft (20 000m). Tallinn ACC provides partial services to the traffic flying to land at Helsinki Vantaa (in arranging landing sequence).
- TWR/APP (combined Tower and Approach unit) provides procedural air traffic control, information and alerting services in the TMA and CTR of Tartu aerodrome. Tartu CTR extends for 11 nautical miles, TMA – for approximately 40-50 nautical miles from the aerodrome.
The main language of communication between controllers and flight crews is English, sometimes it can also be Estonian.