Air Traffic Controller Jessper Perez at the Rockhampton tower.
Air Traffic Controller Jessper Perez at the Rockhampton tower. Allan Reinikka ROK201016aairtraf

The eyes in the skies who keep us safe in the planes

JESSPER Perez had absolutely no idea what happened behind the scenes of an airport until he signed up to control one.

The now Rocky local who has the "best office view” in the region said when he signed up to be an air traffic controller he didn't want to work in any of the major cities.

"I'm in Rockhampton because I didn't want to be in any of the major cities, I wanted to see a regional location, to see Australia so here I am,” Jessper said.

Although Rockhampton airport may not seem as busy as airports down south, Jessper says it delivers a more diverse type of work which keeps you busy in a different sort of way.

"The way the Rockhampton tower is designed is the person in control will be in control of all of the taxi ways, including the runway and airspace up to 4,500 feet, about 40km south, 40km north and about 30km east and west,” he said.

"Rockhampton is called a procedural tower which means we don't have a radar so we have to control planes using mathematical procedures which means you have to plan a long way ahead and always have to have some sort of way out if your decision is wrong.”

Jessper's interest in becoming an air traffic controller began when his friend suggested he apply after they heard applications were being accepted.

"I had absolutely no idea about ATC at the time, the only reason I replied was because I wanted to see how far I would get and I made it through,” he said.

"You apply on line, there's always positions available for ATC's, if you make it through the assessment criteria you'll get accepted to an assessment day where they'll do more rigorous assessments on you and psychological tests.

"Then if you make it through that you go to a learning academy either based in Brisbane or Melbourne, depending on what kind of controller you apply to be, that could either take one year or a year and a half and if you make it through that you get sent to your location, you get on the job training for six months and once you've made it through that you're controlling aeroplanes on your own.”

Jessper said his basic everyday job was ensuring the aeroplanes and people in them were safe, didn't crash into each other and to make sure they get to their destination as quickly as possible.

"It's shift work, we're pretty lucky we have something like four to five days on and then two or three days off,” he said.

"It's probably just like any other job, most of the time you're not stressed out but there are some points when you will be quite stressed out.”

Jessper said the Rockhampton airport tended to be unique thanks to the military operations which were often happening in the region.

"We do get military exercises here sometimes twice a year, but usually once a year,” he said.

"It's (Rocky airport) is also a training aerodrome which means we get a lot of military aeroplanes from the armed forcesthat come and practice.

"The planes go at different speeds and have different capabilities, they all turn differently; you've got to account for that when you give them control instructions.”



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