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Traffic management: air traffic controller licences

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Traffic management: air traffic controller licences

European airspace remains one of the world's most congested traffic areas. Fragmentation of the air management system into national "islands" of rules, procedures, markets and performance levels is now the main impediment to making progress in this industry. It is therefore important that the entrance conditions and conditions of practice relating to the profession of air traffic controller be harmonised. The single European sky package is designed to remedy this fragmentation through a number of initiatives, one of which is the Community air traffic controller licence, by which Community rules can be introduced which will ensure higher levels of safety.


Directive 2006/23/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 April 2006 on a Community air traffic controller licence.


This Directive applies to applicants for a student air traffic controller licence and to air traffic controllers employed by air navigation service providers operating mainly in the field of general air traffic.

Member States must designate a body or bodies as their national supervisory authority to take on the tasks assigned to such authorities under the new rules. Member States must ensure that national supervisory authorities exercise their powers impartially and transparently.

The Directive will:

  • lay down rules on all the elements of the licensing chain;
  • make the institutional framework laid down in the Single European Sky legislation applicable to training; training is seen as a service similar to air navigation services, including the possibility of inspections and surveys;
  • specify the conditions for obtaining and maintaining a licence;
  • harmonise competencies by imposing a structure of ratings and endorsements which specify the type of service that the air traffic controller is competent to deliver;
  • give further guarantees of a high level of competence, particularly through the auditing requirement and the system for approving examiners.

The provision of air navigation services requires highly skilled personnel. For air traffic control the appropriate means is the Community licence, to be seen as a kind of diploma. In this context, air traffic controller licences will be issued to applicants who:

  • hold at least a secondary education diploma (or equivalent degree) or a diploma granting access to university;
  • have successfully completed an approved initial training course relevant to the rating, including practical training and simulation;
  • hold a valid medical certificate; medical certificates must be issued in accordance with the international medical requirements;
  • have demonstrated an adequate level of linguistic ability; Member States must ensure that air traffic controllers can demonstrate the ability to operate in English and possibly the local language.

At the same time, applicants must:

  • be at least 18 years old;
  • hold a student licence;
  • hold a valid medical certificate;
  • have demonstrated an adequate level of linguistic ability in accordance with the set requirements.

Each Member State must recognise the licence and its associated ratings and endorsements issued by the national supervisory authority of another Member State. This should lead to the recognition of licences throughout the Community, thereby increasing both freedom of movement and the availability of air traffic controllers.

This directive is repealed by Regulation (EC) No 1108/2009 from December 2012.


The objective of this Directive is to raise safety standards and improve the operation of the Community air traffic control system through the issuance of a Community air traffic controller licence.

Air traffic controllers are a key link in the safety chain. The licence is thus part of a wider Community safety policy enshrined in the package. It should provide the opportunity to revise or reinforce safety aspects of air traffic management and introduce high standards for the training system.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has adopted provisions on air traffic controller licensing, including linguistic requirements. In addition, the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation (Eurocontrol) has adopted Eurocontrol Safety Regulatory Requirements relating to training and licensing. However, despite these many international regulations, licensing remains highly fragmented in the European Union Member States.



Entry into force - Date of expiry

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 2006/23/EC



OJ L 114, 27.4.2006


Regulation (EC) No 550/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 10 March 2004 on the provision of air navigation services in the single European sky (the service provision Regulation) [Official Journal L 96, 31.3.2004].

Regulation (EC) No 549/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 10 March 2004 laying down the framework for the creation of the single European sky (the framework Regulation) - Statement by the Member States on military issues related to the single European sky [Official Journal L 96, 31.3.2004].

Last updated: 03.11.2008