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Air Traffic Technician

Air Traffic Technician

Douglas McMillan, Airways New Zealand

Earning: $50-60,000
In a nutshell: Repairing, maintaining and installing Air Traffic Navigation Systems.
Why? “There’s lots of variety and I enjoy all the outside work.”

Pathway Rangiora High School, Year 12: Calculus, English, Electronics, PE/Outdoor Education
High school in France, Year 13: IT, English, French, Maths, Technology
Auckland University of Technology (AUT) : Diploma in Electrotechnology

Douglas McMillan is a practical sort of person with a family background in aviation (his father is an engineer for Air New Zealand) so he’s a great fit for a job as an air traffic technician.

At school he enjoyed Technology classes where he learnt useful skills in hard materials and electronics. During his year at the International School in Toulouse, he made a prototype of an ergonomic cell phone, designed and built a chair and made a short ad for Volkswagen.

“While I was in France I met a New Zealander who fixed aircraft electronic equipment and I was keen on electronics as well as aircraft,” he explains. “I chose to study for a Diploma in Electrotechnology because it was a practical based course.”
In his role as an air traffic technician for Airways New Zealand, Douglas travels to navigation sites all around the South Island. At each site he does general maintenance and installation, and fixes faults on different types of equipment. Before he hands it back to Air Traffic control, he does a safety check to confirm that the equipment is operational and safe for pilots and controllers to use.

“At polytech we learned how to do tasks but in the real world there is a lot more at stake. We always have to remember that ‘air traffic has to be safe’ – that’s the main priority.”

As well as knowing that he’s contributing to the safety of thousands of people every day, his job is rewarding and enjoyable because there’s lots of variety and he gets to work outdoors.

“To do my job the most important thing is to be practical,” he says. “But we are encouraged to be innovative where it can improve the efficiency of the way we work.”

Obviously, working in air traffic control is a career with a lot of potential for travel. As well as working all around the South Island, Douglas has travelled around Australia installing VHF radios and working with lots of different people.

“Airways New Zealand is known around the world for the people we are, the quality and range of the work that we do, and the types of equipment we work on.”

Posted May 2012