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Connor O'Loughlin


Air Traffic Controller




What did you study?

Air Traffic Control with Airways New Zealand. I am now an aerodrome and approach controller in Gisborne Tower.

Why did you choose this course?

I have always had an interest in the aviation industry, and air traffic control offered me the opportunity to have a great work/life balance and get paid well too. There are also lots of opportunities to work in different roles all around the country and overseas.

What did you enjoy about your course?

The course was full on but very rewarding.  It involves six months of classroom/simulator training and about six months on-the-job training. I enjoyed the on-the-job training the most, after all the theory stuff it was great to get out into the field and put what I had learnt into practice.

What helped you to successfully complete your course?

The course is relatively short compared with others out there (about 12 months) and it seems like it’s over in a flash, but to complete it successfully requires lots and lots of study!

What advice do you have for future students?

Just study hard! The air traffic control course isn’t a walk in the park but if you’re motivated and work hard you will get there. The rewards are well worth the effort!




Describe your job.

I’m an aerodrome and approach controller. Basically my job is to prevent collisions between aircraft on and around my airfield, reduce delays, provide advice and information to pilots (eg. information about hazardous weather) and to provide an alerting service to notify emergency services about an aircraft that has crashed or is in distress.

What do you do on an average day?

I issue clearances and instructions to aircraft which will get them from A to B safely, and pass them any information that could affect the safety of their flight, such as weather, other aircraft or navigation aid outages.

I apply procedures to keep aircraft a minimum distance apart, and regularly communicate with other controllers to coordinate flights moving through different airspaces. On any given day I could also be broadcasting regular weather reports so arriving planes have a good understanding of the local weather conditions.

What is the most exciting about your job?

My job is different every day. While the regular planes come in and out every day, a change of as little as 1 minute in their estimated time of arrival can completely change the situation from the way it was the day before. Separating several planes arriving and departing in close proximity can be quite stressful while you’re still learning,  but it’s a lot of fun when you have the hang of it!

What opportunities does your job offer?

At Airways there are heaps of opportunities to work in different locations and roles throughout the country - including regional towers, international towers, and the radar control centre in Christchurch.

The qualification is internationally recognised so there are also plenty of opportunities to work overseas once you have a bit of experience. You can also move into other areas of the Airways business such as management, depending on your level of experience.

What skills, training, education or past experiences helped you secure your job?

Before I started my air traffic control training I had a commercial pilot’s licence which gave me a good understanding of procedures from a pilot’s perspective – although it’s not essential to have any aviation industry experience.

It does help if you can do very basic maths in your head quickly, and having good situational awareness is also important.

Where do you see yourself heading in the future within this industry?

In a couple years I’ll be moving down to Christchurch to do area radar controlling. After that I might look into working overseas for a bit.

What advice do you have for anyone wanting to work in the aviation industry?

Just work hard! The aviation industry can be hard to break into, but stick at it and the rewards will be well worth the effort!