Air traffic controllers play an instrumental role in the running of the aviation system. Not only are they essential in ensuring air traffic is managed safely, but they also make an invaluable contribution to the overall efficiency of air transport, overseeing the air travel of millions of passengers each year.

 It takes a certain type of person with innate visualisation skills to be able to become an air traffic controller and, for such an important job, air traffic management organisations need to ensure that they can attract the best and brightest, and not only those fortunate enough to be able to fund their own education. That is why South Africa’s Air Traffic & Navigation Services (ATNS) has established an air traffic control officer trainee bursary programme.

This scheme is open to all South African citizens, as long as they are at least 18 years old, have high school level maths and English qualifications and are medically fit. The bursary programme allows those with the raw ability to become professional air traffic controllers to be funded through their training without the need for additional financial backing. For the duration of the training course, the bursary pays for tuition, accommodation at ATNS’s own guest lodge, transport, meals and a monthly allowance.

The training programme consists of three phases: the Bursary Scheme, air traffic control officer learnership and, finally, full qualification as an air traffic controller. Over 100 students from South Africa, Zambia, Swaziland and Namibia were conferred with various aviation qualifications in November 2015.