Millions of passengers at 35,000 feet are relying on them – and they’re not flying any planes. They’re the guardians of flight safety – we can’t see them, but they’re constantly watching over us when we fly.
From their view above the skyline, Air Traffic Controllers are keeping our skies safe, and Saturday October 20 is the day to celebrate the crucial role they play.
In control towers in airports around New Zealand, air traffic controllers are keeping planes separated and their passengers safe by informing pilots of weather conditions, telling them where other planes are and providing relevant air and ground-based information to enable them to arrive safely at their destination. ATCs control around 1 million aircraft movements every year in and around New Zealand.
Air traffic controllers in New Zealand are employed by SOE Airways and it’s probably not surprising that it’s an international business. Since 2006 Airways has employed controllers from countries including England, Scotland, Sweden, South Africa, Australia, Singapore, Philippines, China and Denmark.
Training to become an ATC generally takes around a year. It is split into two components - the first being six months at the Airways training centre in Christchurch, followed by 4-9 months on the job training at one of NZ’s regional airports. Successful trainees are guaranteed a job on completion of the NZQA-recognised course and there are abundant opportunities for career progression, both in NZ and overseas.
Around 30% of the trainees are females.
Airways NZ manages all domestic and international air traffic operating within NZ’s 37 million square kilometres of airspace.