Air Traffic Controller
What did you study?
National Diploma in Air Traffic Services Level 7.
Why did you choose this course?
I have an interest in aviation. I was initially learning to fly, and through this heard about what air traffic control actually is. I was attracted to the challenges of the job, and how every day is never the same.
What did you enjoy about your course?
I enjoyed learning about a side of aviation I had never thought about before. The class trips to various places were fantastic, especially getting up close and personal with a Boeing 737 and Hercules C130! It helped reinforce who we do the job for.
What helped you to successfully complete your course?
A background in aviation did help but wasn’t essential, as all the required knowledge is taught as part of the Airways training. Having a passion for the job is the most important factor that will determine whether you will pass. There is a lot to learn, but it is great fun and well worth it.
What advice do you have for future students?
A good work ethic is very important, but remember to enjoy it! Working well as part of a team is a must. You will be in a small class, so you will spend a lot of time with your classmates.
Describe your job
I manage the air traffic within New Zealand's airspace. When a plane takes off, it is my job to guide that plane safely to its destination, taking into account other air traffic and the weather. I also provide the pilot with any relevant information that they need.
What do you do on an average day?
I talk to many planes that travel through the particular block of airspace that is my responsibility. I keep them separated by using the many different methods available, help them avoid bad weather and try to get them from A to B as efficiently as possible. I do this by talking to the pilots over the radio and passing information and instructions that they must follow.
What opportunities does your job offer?
This is not like your average desk job. No two days are the same. It is an international qualification that can be used overseas, so there are many opportunities around the world that you could take advantage of. There are towers at every major town as well as the radar centre in Christchurch and this gives you the opportunity to work anywhere in New Zealand!
What skills, training, education or past experiences helped you secure your job?
You need to be able to work in a team, have good communication skills and have great spatial awareness. Only a small percentage of people have exactly what is required, as it is a specialised job. As part of the recruitment process, you are tested to see if you have these skills. The practice tests on the Airways website will give you a good indication!
Where do you see yourself heading in the future within this industry?
The skills learnt in the Airways training college never change, but there are many sectors you can work in within New Zealand, all with slightly different procedures and traffic patterns. Over time, I'm sure I will try more of these sectors to keep improving my skills and knowledge and to keep the job new and interesting.
What advice do you have for anyone wanting to work as an Air Traffic Controller?
Do it! I love it and never thought I would be doing this when I left school. I would suggest having some exposure to the aviation industry, whether it be a flying lesson or a relevant course, to see if this is for you. You'll quickly see if you have a passion for this industry and if so, go for it!
I studied Commerce at university, in finance and economics. While studying, I worked at a bank.
Towards the end of my studies, I started learning how to fly. This was always something I wanted to do, and the moment I tried it I was hooked. Not long after starting, I began to think about who it was on the other end of the radio. I'd never really thought about what Air Traffic Control was, but after a bit of research I reckoned it looked fun! I was getting bored at work and wanted something exciting and challenging to do. Since applying, being accepted onto and then completing the course, I've never looked back. Every day is different and I make hundreds of decisions every day that keeps me thinking and interested.