Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University


Leadership in air traffic control facilities is critical to the safe, orderly, and efficient flow of air traffic. The purpose of this qualitative study was to determine the preferred leadership style for United States Air Force air traffic control tower watch supervisors. A panel of 10 functional experts completed a 25 question scenario-based survey to establish a baseline for this study’s four research questions. A purposeful sample of eight control tower chief controllers representing the eight United States Air Force major commands were interviewed and their responses were compared to the mean of the experts panel. The data from the interviews was analyzed and in addition to the straight forward responses to the research questions two themes emerged: (1) the role of the monitor and (2) the apprentice controller’s role in emergency situations. The study discovered that United States Air Force control towers are fully implementing the fundamentals of situational leadership. The eight interviewees’ responses mirrored the expert panels’ answers. The results of this study provide control tower chief controllers, watch supervisors, and future watch supervisors a frame of reference on how situations are handled across the spectrum of facilities.