You of course are probably familiar with what a tower controller does. Keep in mind though, that besides just controlling the airspace within about 5nm of the field, the tower controller is constantly on the land line coordinating with Approach/Departure to hand off aircraft and help get pilot’s requests granted by Approach/Departure. Often times if there is a delay in a Tower controller answering you on the radio, it is due to them coordinating with Approach/Departure on the Land Line (phone).
Tower controllers work up in the top of the “cab” with the ground controllers. Often times if the airport has RADAR services like Approach/Departure or a TRSA, then the lower part of the tower without windows will be where they work.
RADAR controllers always work in dark rooms. There won’t be any windows in a RADAR facility. Approach and Departure are also the same thing and same person, we simply refer to them by a different name when we’re first departing an airport (departure), and then the contact you have with the next controller after that will be referred to as Approach (along with every other TRACON controller you talk to all the way until you land). What we know as Approach / Departure is really called TRACON (pronounced, trake-con) Terminal RADAR Approach Control. The name really says it all for us, TERMINAL. These controllers only control airspace in the TERMINAL environment around an airport (usually no more than 20-30 miles from the field). TRACON is also only going to control aircraft up to a certain altitude above the field. Once you start getting well above the Class Charlie or Class Bravo airspace for that facility, they’ll hand you off to CENTER who we will talk about next! REMEMBER: TRACON controllers spend about just as much time talking on the radio as they do coordinating on the landline between other TRACON sectors and CENTER, as well as with TOWER. They aren’t talking on the phone to catch up with their friends, they’re on the phone helping to accommodate pilot’s request for where they want to go or any information they are requesting. If they don’t respond to you right away, give them a little time, then try again, patiently!