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ATC Training FAQ

Air traffic control training - Frequently asked questions

You will earn a New Zealand air traffic controller or flight service operator licence issued by the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority which is recognised by the International Civil Aviation Organisation

You’ll also be awarded New Zealand Certificates and Diplomas for each stage of training.

it is possible for you to cross credit to Massey University’s Bachelor of Aviation Management from your Air Traffic Control qualifications.

You may be eligible for study under the Fees-Free tertiary education scheme. Alternatively, you may be able to access a student loan if you meet Study Link’s eligibility requirements – take this eligibility test to find out. You may also be eligible for a student allowance. You don’t have to pay back the student loan until you start earning.

As each person’s entitlement varies according to their personal circumstances, we recommend that you contact StudyLink on 0800 88 99 00 to discuss eligibility. Please note fees are reviewed annually and subject to change.

Due to the limited places on the New Zealand Air Traffic Services training programme, all applicants are required to undergo the full screening process. The intent of this process is to offer training to those students who have demonstrated skills and aptitudes, which will maximise their chance of success and achievement of full potential. With only 2-3% of the global population possessing the competencies to become an ATC, selecting the right person from the start saves you, the student, time and money, by improving the chances for training success.

An air traffic controller who has just finished training and is offered a role with Airways would start on a total of around $115,000 gross including base salary, shift loadings, superannuation and allowances.

A Flight Services Officer who has just finished training and is offered a role with Airways might start on a range of rates between around $60,000 and $114,000 gross, including base salary, shift loadings, superannuation and allowances, depending on the unit they start in.

A Class 3 medical certificate is a requirement for all air traffic controllers, providing quality assurance that Airways staff are fit to provide an ATS service. All staff are required to keep these certificates current, as per the Civil Aviation Act 1990.

If you have any doubt about your health, medication, or medical history, you are advised to arrange a Class 3 Issue Medical Examination with a CAA appointed Medical Examiner as soon as possible (the list of Examiners is available here).

Some common causes which may prevent a person from obtaining a Class 3 medical certificate include colour blindness, a history of seizures, fainting and some medications (see here for more information).

If you have any questions, please contact If you are in doubt, consult your CAA Medical Examiner. Airways NZ has its own Corporate Medical Adviser, and Airways staff or the CAA Medical Examiner can approach him for advice – however the final decision on medical fitness is made by the CAA Medical Unit.

Once you have successfully completed your field training, you are able to work as an Air Traffic Controller or Flight Service Operator, subject to:

  • An offer of employment from Airways Corporation of New Zealand
  • Obtaining a New Zealand CAA Air Traffic Services licence
  • Undertaking a drug test (as required to obtain a CAA Air Traffic Services licence)
  • Undertaking a Ministry of Justice criminal convictions check (as required to obtain a CAA Air Traffic Services licence)
  • Obtaining/maintaining a CAA Class 3 medical certificate, CAA airport security pass, and CAA Fit & Proper person status.

Our first six weeks (FSO training) or first eight to nine months (ATC training) is spent at the Training Centre in Christchurch. Then, approximately four to nine months is spent doing field training. The time spent in field training is dependent on the location and your learning capacity.

The locations for field  training vary for each course, however these locations typically include Rotorua, Palmerston North, 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 or Auckland. Other regional towers may also be used as field 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.

Training course hours for the Christchurch Training Centre courses are usually rostered between 0700hrs and 1900hrs Monday to Friday, on a shift hour basis of 7 hours per training day comprising, 6 contact hours plus 1 hour lunch break.

At times there will be a need for shift work to fit in with other users. Start times will then be adjusted accordingly, i.e. 0600 to 1400, 1030 to 1800, 1600 to 2400. Similarly, during on job training, you will be required to be rostered on to shift work, and will likely need to work weekends at your training unit.

Breaks are scheduled during the course where you will have holiday breaks one-to-three-week breaks depending on the time of year.

If you have recently completed school, a minimum of Level 2 NCEA pass (12 credits pass in Maths at Level 1 and 8 credits in English at Level 2) and 42 other credits at Level 3 or equivalent is required. Otherwise, we will consider your tertiary level study and your work experience to date to show us you have the right stuff for training.

As you cannot gain a New Zealand CAA licence until you are 21 years old, we only accept you into training in your 20th year. In the meantime, do something you enjoy, and what you are good at. You don’t need a tertiary qualification to gain entry, but the commitment required completing one will assist you when you do start studying with Airways Training.

Below is one recommendation you might like to explore:

  • Study for two years at Massey University in the Bachelor of Aviation Management
  • Then come to Airways Training and train as an ATC
  • Cross credit your Airways training to Massey and get both your CAA licence and a degree!

If you’re selected for ATC training, the current fees are:

Part 1 of the FSO training programme is $3,000 (inclusive of GST). This comprises of the following courses and upon completion you are eligible for the New Zealand CAA Flight Service Trainee Licence (FSTL): 

  • 051 Licensing Subjects

Part 1 of the ATC training programme is $14,000 (inclusive of GST). This comprises of the following courses and upon completion you are eligible for the New Zealand CAA Air Traffic Trainee Licence (ATTL): 

  • 051 Licensing Subjects,
  • 052 Aerodrome Control,
  • 053 Approach Control Procedural, 
  • 054 Area Control Surveillance, and
  • 055 Area Control Procedural (if applicable)

These fees cover all tuition costs and course materials of Part 1 of the ATC and FSO training programmes.

Following successful completion of Part 1, you will need to enrol in Part 2 (on-the-job-training – OJT) of the NZ Air Traffic Services Training Programme. Part 2 (OJT) is dependent on OJT posting location, and equivalent rating requirements.

The fee for Part 2 for both ATC and FSO is $7,000 and comprises ONE of the following:

  • Area and/or Aerodrome Flight Service Operator, or
  • Aerodrome rating; or
  • Aerodrome and Approach Control Procedural rating; or
  • Area Control Surveillance and Area Control Procedural rating.

Course fees for both Part 1 and Part 2 are to be paid before each part starts.

Our Air Traffic Controllers and Flight Service Operators work at surveillance centres, airport control towers and sometimes even air shows. Typically, they work 7.5 hour shifts and are rostered four days on and two days off with five weeks’ annual leave.

If you are accepted, you will be expected to find your own accommodation. There may be others also starting the course at the same time who might be looking for a flatmate.

If your application meets our requirements, we will ask you to sit our aptitude tests. These tests are specifically designed to see if you have the ability to be an air traffic specialist. We measure your ability to follow written instructions, to visualise three dimensionally, solve complex problems under time pressure and accurately check data. If you meet the requirements, you will then complete personality questionnaire. If you are successful at this stage, you will be considered for a place at the Assessment Centre.

The induction module for all students covers meteorology, aircraft operations, air navigation, navigation aids, communications, aviation law, human performance and Air traffic services equipment. For ATC students, the simulator modules cover the basics of hands-on air traffic control in the aerodrome tower or surveillance centre environment. It teaches students how to keep aircraft separated using a range of tools, rules and procedures.

You can only apply once per campaign. If you are unsuccessful, you will be able to re-apply once the next campaign is open.  

If you are invited to an Assessment Centre and you are unsuccessful, you will be required to have a standdown period of 18 months before you can re-apply.

Please note that if you have been unsuccessful at an Assessment Centre twice you will not be eligible to reapply.  

How do I apply?

Applications are now open for our ATC training programme to start in October 2024. Applications close on 31 July 2024.