Keeping our skies safe in New Zealand is a big responsibility. It takes a certain kind of person with the right skills, aptitude and attitude. In return it offers a career full of challenges, opportunities, rewards and a sense of purpose and achievement.
Have you got what it takes to train as an Air Traffic Controller (ATC) or a Flight Service Operator (FSO)? Find everything you need to know here about training to be an ATC/FSO for New Zealand airspace.
Register below to receive an email alert when applications open for the next training programme later in 2021.
* This training is for New Zealand residents and Australian citizens only. Students will complete New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) approved qualifications.
Air Traffic Controllers (ATCs) are responsible for the safe and efficient movement of aircraft, and provide pilots with flight information so every flight takes off, flies and lands safely. They either work in surveillance control centres or in airport control towers and use various equipment, such as radar and radios to communicate advice and instructions to pilots. Flight Service Operators (FSOs) work in an aerodrome or in our main surveillance centre, and give advice and information for the safe and efficient movement of flights.
Different controllers - as shown in this graphic - handle the various stages of flight. These ATCs are responsible for air traffic management, navigation services, and communications.
Each "controller" has different areas of responsibility. They work from our surveillance centre in Christchurch, our Oceanic Control centre in Auckland, or in one of 17 control towers throughout the country.
Enable the safe and efficient operation of aircraft near the aerodrome. They are based at an aerodrome's control tower and control traffic visually within the control zone.
Work in enroute upper airspace sectors and are responsible for keeping aircraft separate in the airspace around them.
Manage and sequence traffic approaching and departing an aerodrome. They handle arriving and departing aircraft by working closely with both Area Surveillance controllers and Tower controllers.
Provide key information – like weather updates and operational info - to aircraft operating throughout New Zealand and the wider Oceanic airspace.
We’re looking for people with the ability to visualise and react to situations in the right kind of way. Are you:
If you believe you can answer yes to all of the above, then you may have the skills and attributes we're looking for to successfully work in air traffic services!
You need to meet the following eligibility criteria in order to become an air traffic services specialist in New Zealand:
If this sounds like you, read on. You’re the kind of student we are looking for, and this may be the right kind of rewarding training programme for you.
Training to become an ATC or FSO is both demanding and rewarding. Making the cut for the training programme is not easy! We use our carefully designed selection process to offer training to those people with the exact skills and attributes we need. The intent of this robust process is to maximise students' chance of success and achievement of their full potential.
With only 2-3% of the global population possessing the competencies to become an ATC, selecting the right people from the start saves you, the student, time and money by improving your chances for training success. The selection process may take 6 to 12 months.
Once we’ve assessed your application, we’ll be in touch to talk about next steps. Start your application here.
To assess your aptitude, you’ll complete a range of online aptitude tests. These include detail accuracy, spatial awareness, memory, and multi-tasking exercises.
If you are shortlisted after the aptitude testing, you'll be asked to complete an online interview and a personality questionnaire. This allows us to get to know you better.
If selected, you’ll attend a one-day assessment in Christchurch. You’ll take further aptitude tests and be assessed in group and individual activities. You’ll spend time with key Airways staff, Air Traffic Controllers and tour our radar centre and Christchurch control tower.
Following successful reference checks, you will be offered a place on an upcoming training course, subject to a criminal check, drug testing and meeting the Civil Aviation Authority’s medical requirements.
Once you are selected to join a training programme, you will be enrolled in the New Zealand Certificate in Air Traffic Services (Level 5) and the New Zealand Diploma in Air Traffic Services (Level 6). Training begins online via self-directed learning for a period of four weeks. You will then join us at the Airways Training Centre in Christchurch for further theory and practical training - for eight to nine months (ATC) or six weeks (FSO).
ATC students spend six weeks undertaking theoretical training in a small class environment, followed by 22 weeks training in our state-of-the-art simulators, to apply the theory learned.
When you start on-the-job training with Airways, you will relocate to one of our towers or surveillance centres for four to nine months and will complete the New Zealand Diploma in Air Traffic Services (Level 7). The time spent in on-job training is dependent on the location and your learning capacity.
Locations for on-the-job ATC training vary for each course, however these locations typically include Palmerston North, Ohakea, Napier, Invercargill and New Plymouth Towers. For FSO, training is either in the Tower at Paraparaumu, Milford Sound, or in our surveillance centre in Christchurch. Occasionally others may also be used as on-the-job training locations.
Students are advised of the training locations during their initial training course. While we take your preferences into consideration, you must be flexible and have the ability to relocate.
Full training takes around 12 to 18 months, however may take longer.
Once you successfully complete the selection process, you'll be offered the chance to join one of our training courses. Each course intake is six to twelve students.
The first four weeks of training is online, self-directed learning, followed by six weeks of theoretical training in Christchurch. FSO students then begin on-job training. ATC students continue in the training academy with 22 weeks working in our simulators.
When you’ve completed theory and simulator training, you'll undertake on-the-job training for four to nine months. For ATC students this will most likely be in one of our regional towers - working with real aircraft, supervised by an experienced ATC or FSO.
When you've completed on-the-job training and shown that you can deal consistently with all traffic situations, you'll undertake a final proficiency assessment. On successful completion you'll be issued your Air Traffic Control (ATC) or Flight Service Operator (FSO) licence and rating from the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
Once you’ve completed training you can apply for a job with Airways subject to a pre-employment drug test and a Ministry of Justice criminal records check. Most new Airways air traffic services staff start their careers at a regional control tower, where they gain experience before seeking positions in towers at our international airports or in one of our surveillance centres. A small number of controllers will be employed directly into a surveillance centre. With experience, there are also opportunities to pursue a range of related specialist and management roles.