Air Traffic Controller Kaiwhakahaere Huarahi Rererangi

Air traffic controllers direct the safe and orderly movement of aircraft while they are flying, landing, taking off and taxiing.

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Air traffic controllers may do some or all of the following:

  • receive information about flights from flight plans, pilot reports, radar and observations
  • direct aircraft and manage aircraft traffic flows
  • advise pilots on weather conditions, the status of facilities and airports
  • give pilots permission to take off, land and change altitude and direction
  • give airport workers permission to move around the tarmac and runway
  • monitor aircraft on a radar and resolve possible conflicts
  • alert airport fire crew and rescue services in emergencies
  • write reports on incidents.

Physical Requirements

Air traffic controllers need to have:

  • good hearing and eyesight (with or without corrective lenses)
  • normal colour vision
  • good spatial awareness.

They also need to be reasonably healthy, as they have to pass a medical examination every one to four years.

Useful Experience

Useful experience for air traffic controllers includes:

  • work as an aeroplane or helicopter pilot
  • other aviation and navigation experience
  • any work dealing with people
  • work in industries with a strong health and safety focus, for example, emergency services.

Personal Qualities

Air traffic controllers need to be:

  • very organised, with the ability to prioritise, plan and make decisions
  • able to remain calm under pressure and adapt quickly to changing situations
  • able to learn theory and apply it in practical situations
  • excellent at spatial awareness
  • mature, responsible and conscientious
  • skilled in making calculations
  • clear communicators and able to work well with others.

Skills

Air traffic controllers need to have knowledge of:

  • meteorology
  • technical flying terms
  • civil aviation laws
  • safety rules and emergency procedures.

Conditions

Air traffic controllers:

  • usually work seven-and-a-half hour shifts, which includes¬†evening, night and weekend work
  • usually work in control towers at airports or at radar centres
  • may work alone at small airports.

Air Traffic Controllers can earn around $95K-$200K per year.

Pay for air traffic controllers varies depending on where they work, their experience and their duties. Pay includes a base salary plus superannuation, shift work allowances and other benefits.

  • New air traffic controllers working at regional airports usually start on $95,000 a year.
  • Experienced air traffic controllers usually earn up to $200,000.
  • Air traffic controllers who work at the radar centres in Auckland and Christchurch can earn $160,000 to $200,000.

Source: Airways International, 2021.

New air traffic controllers usually work at a regional control tower, dealing mostly with domestic flights. With two to three years' experience they may progress to work in an international control tower or radar centre. They may then move into management or specialist roles such as:

Air Traffic Control Policy and Standards Specialist
Air traffic control policy and standards specialists co-ordinate and provide advice on procedures, licensing and standards issues.
Air Training Centre Instructor
Air training centre instructors train air traffic controllers.

Years Of Training

1 year of training usually required.

To become an air traffic controller you need to have:

  • completed courses and qualifications in air traffic services which include an eight-month course in Christchurch and on-the-job training¬†
  • a Class 3 medical certificate
  • an airport security clearance.

To get into the courses you must:

  • be either a New Zealand or Australian citizen or a permanent resident
  • pass aptitude tests, interviews and group exercises
  • be at least 20 years old
  • Have NCEA Level 3 or equivalent or hold a personal or commercial pilot licence and work experience
  • pass the Civil Aviation Authority medical certificate and requirements to be a fit and proper person.

Airways New Zealand hold regular intakes to the courses each year, but entry is very competitive.

If you are under 20 years old, you can do a Bachelor of Aviation Management at Massey University for two years, before entering an air traffic control training programme.

Air Traffic Controller

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