What's your job about?
Airservices’ manages the arrival and departure of more than 156 million passengers annually. Air Traffic Controllers (ATC) are at the core of this function, managing the safe and orderly flow of aircraft into, out of, and between airports throughout Australia and overseas regions adjoining Australian airspace.
This responsibility is split between three types of air traffic control; Tower, “Enroute” and Approach. I am currently an en route controller, however, opportunities exist to perform all three types of ATC.
On a typical day as an en route controller, I will manage up to four different pieces of airspace. This airspace lies between major airports and predominantly handles flights whilst they are in the cruise phase e.g. at 40,000ft. These flights are displayed on my console via a radar feed. The pilot/s of every single flight through my airspace on this radar feed will contact me. Sometimes, no action will be required, and we simply monitor the flight through our airspace. On most occasions, however, we provide instructions to ensure that the flight arrives safely. These can include altitude changes, speed changes or sequencing and delaying instructions e.g. holding.
On rare occasions, in-flight emergencies occur, and we will assist where able and provide priority to these flights.
You must think and react quickly, and each problem presented is like a puzzle that you must solve.
What's your background?
I grew up west of Brisbane and remained there until completing university. Throughout high school and university, I worked multiple part-time jobs in retail – nothing to do with aviation. ATC was first introduced to me as a career option in high school, having completed an aerospace subject in year 11. From this point, it remained on my radar as a career goal.
After realising that a family friend was an ATC and discussing the job with him, I decided that this is what I wanted to do, however, I hadn’t fulfilled the required prerequisites. Knowing the job requires a high level of maturity and carries a lot of responsibility, I was happy to wait until completing university to apply.
I accepted a graduate position at a large accounting firm prior to completing university, so I commenced this job and began the Chartered Accountants program. This was essentially plan B, so when I received my letter of offer from Airservices I stuck to my original plan, resigned from accounting and gave ATC a go.
Could someone with a different background do your job?
Air Traffic Controllers come from a variety of backgrounds. My training course consisted of 16 trainees. Our backgrounds varied from retail and hospitality to physiotherapy, engineering, science, accounting and IT.
It is hard to pinpoint what makes a good ATC, but if you’re good with numbers, are quick thinking and willing to train hard, it should be high on your choices as a career option.
What’s the coolest thing about your job?
The coolest part about my job is when I see an aircraft that was under my jurisdiction fly over me on the drive home from work. It’s nice knowing that you played a part in keeping that flight and those passengers safe. It’s cool to think that only moments earlier I was talking to those pilots on the radio as the plane soars above.
Another perk is what we call ‘Famil flights’. I have been in the jump seat on flights to Sydney, Melbourne and Queenstown. These flights allow us to see the consequences of our instructions from a pilot’s perspective. It provides us with a more holistic view of our actions whilst we get to enjoy the fantastic view from the cockpit.
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