Squadron Leader Allanah Parker looks right at home leading her team controlling the busy airspace over Ohakea military base in New Zealand – and at just 26 years old, she’s already clocking up a few firsts.
SQNLDR Parker is the new Chief Controller of Ohakea air traffic control tower, operated by Airways New Zealand. She’s the youngest and the first female Chief Controller in the tower, and one of the youngest Squadron Leaders in the Royal New Zealand Air Force since World War 2.
“It’s a real privilege to work on Ohakea base, and to wear the RNZAF uniform,” says SQNLDR Parker, who has climbed the ranks through Ohakea Tower since mid-2010, after being posted there from her air traffic control training at the Airways Training Centre in Christchurch.
Her posting to Ohakea was a happy coincidence – “My uncle was a Skyhawk pilot, and I grew up spending some school holidays at Ohakea base. I had planned on joining the Air Force after high school, before a flying scholarship changed my plans,” SQNLDR Parker says.
She applied to become an air traffic controller with Airways while working towards her commercial pilot’s licence. She then completed her ATC training in October 2010, gaining her Ohakea Tower rating after extensive training in Airways’ world-leading Total Control air traffic simulator in the Airways Training Centre in Christchurch, and on-the-job training.
SQNLDR Parker has been part of the Ohakea military community ever since. When she’s off duty, can be found taking part in many RNZAF Ohakea activities – including as a member of the base’s voluntary emergency response team, and an Aviation Sports Club committee member.
“There’s a strong relationship between Airways and RNZAF Ohakea, and it’s part of my role to build on that and continue to provide a safe and efficient service. I’m lucky to have an experienced and supportive team, they’ve always encouraged me and I’m grateful for that,” SQNLDR Parker says.
Airways and RNZAF – an enduring partnership
Airways has a long association with the RNZAF, having provided air traffic control services at military bases in New Zealand since World War 2.
Nine Airways air traffic controllers operate out of Ohakea Tower, controlling the military airspace in shifts, and most are members of the territorial air force. Tower staff participate in military exercises throughout New Zealand, operating out of an Airways mobile control tower. The mobile tower can be operational within 24 hours and deployed via a Hercules if required.
Airways has recently signed contracts with RNZAF and Thales to provide new navigation aids at Ohakea and Whenuapai, another RNZAF military base.
The contracts included the purchase and installation of four instrument landing systems (ILS) and two Doppler VHF Omnidirectional Radio Range Navigational Aids (DVORs), as well as a 15-year maintenance support agreement.