Air Traffic Controller in New Zealand

Becoming an air traffic controller (ATC) in New Zealand is not as difficult as you might think. If you are serious about it, it is best to refer to Airways, the sole authority in training future controllers in the country.


The necessary first step on how to become an air traffic controller is applying. There are academic requirements and then there are individual-related air traffic controller requirements that Airways is looking for. You must:

  • Possess exceptional communication skill
  • Obtain Level 2 NCEA pass
  • Meet the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) class 3 medical requirement
  • Be a New Zealand resident
  • Be 20 years old or older at the start of training

On the other hand, Airways require that the new applicants are goal-focused and decisive and adept at handling theory-based training and in applying the theories. The applicant must be also capable of mentally picturing moving objects in three dimensions. Finally, an important requirement for any air traffic controller training is that the applicant must be a team player.

If you are not yet 20 years old, you can still apply. However, Airways can only book you into the next available training provided that you’ve already reached the minimum age requirement and provided that you meet all the air traffic controller training requirements noted above.

Airways advise applicants to complete a 2-year Aviation Management course at Massey University until the next available training. Afterwards, the applicant may proceed with the ATC training at an Airways air traffic control school.

Further, Airways encourage interested students to apply at the earliest time possible. The entire application process takes about 6 to 12 months to complete as it involves several steps including application, online occupational personality questionnaire (OPQ), testing session, assessment centre and acceptance.


After passing the first step, you will undergo the next major step which is training. Airways will make an offer for you to train if you meet all the requirements. You will train for 12 months in Christchurch under a qualified ATC professor. There will only be between 10 and 12 trainees for each course. The first 6 months will be spent on theories and simulations. The next 6 months will be devoted to on the job training at the tower that Airways will assign you to post. Airways has a total of 17 towers. You will only be known as a trainee after completing and passing all assessments required as a student.

While training, the instructor will guide you all the way, but he or she will give you the liberty to make decisions once you are able to make informed decisions within the operational environment while controlling and dealing with live air traffic. Based on your instructor’s observation, he or she will recommend you to undergo the final proficiency assessment only when you are ready. If you passed this assessment, you will receive your ATC rating and license.

Evidently, there are limited slots, so the journey to become an ATC in New Zealand is quite competitive and difficult. This doesn’t mean, however, that you should abandon your dream of becoming one. Being an ATC is one of the most fulfilling jobs in addition to being one of the highest paying jobs in the country.

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