Chief Controller, Queenstown Tower
Do I need to be a rocket scientist? In his role as Chief Controller, Clayton Lightfoot is often sought out by prospective air traffic control students for his advice about the ATC selection process.
His advice? You need to be a well-rounded person with a good amount of common sense.
“New Zealand air traffic controllers tend to be very dynamic in their thinking and their abilities. Around the rest of the world, airspace design and the flow of traffic is very modular and you do the same thing every day. In New Zealand, we have a lot of different things happening all the time and you have to be very flexible.”
Clayton began his aviation career as a flying instructor before training to be an air traffic controller with Airways. He has since worked in the training centre and radar centres before successfully applying for the Queenstown chief controller role.
“It’s the variety of the job that I love the most. Even though I’m now more into the management side of things, I still spend a lot of the time in the tower talking to the aircraft which I actually really enjoy, and I love the job of being able to get aircraft on the ground as efficiently as possible. It gives you quite a buzz when you’ve got quite a busy sequence and you nut it all out and they all get in fine and dandy, and I think that’s great.”
Clayton says that air traffic control attracts similar personality types, with everyone getting on pretty well.
“In the tower we do have quite a lot of laughs and we do get on really really well with each other. At times there is quite a big age gap, we have some guys in the tower who are in their 60’s and other guys who are in their mid 20’s. It doesn’t make any difference - we all joke and laugh and have a great time.”