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The New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association Newsletter. As of April 2020 Uplink ALPA is a 6-monthly publication.

Women’s Assistance Coordinators to launch NZALPA’s new Assistance Forum

As NZALPA expands its medical and welfare offering to include the Women’s Assistance Line, the committee has introduced two Women’s Assistance Coordinators to lead a women’s forum, and offer member assistance to female colleagues.

The Women’s Assistance Forum will be made up of an experienced 12-woman group of air traffic controllers and pilot volunteers to assist with women-specific enquiries that do not involve significant stress or mental wellbeing issues.

The forum will provide mutual support and an information vehicle for women in aviation. Whether it is juggling the demands of a healthy work-life balance, pregnancy, IVF, childcare, infant feeding, teenagers, empty-nest syndrome, menopause, sexual harassment and female-specific medical matters that can affect wellbeing if not managed timely and effectively, the forum can offer assistance.

Air traffic controller Janet Taylor and pilot Angela Swann-Cronin are the Women’s Assistance Coordinators. Uplink asked them a few questions to get to know them better.

Air Traffic Controller Janet Taylor

Janet Taylor is originally from Palmerston North and now lives on a lifestyle property in Halkett (20 minutes west of Christchurch Airport). She gained her Private Pilot Licence at the Manawatu District Aeroclub ‘many moons ago’ and later pursued a career in air traffic control after suggestions from the senior pilots at the aeroclub. After some investigation, she was hooked and has never looked back.

During her 30-year career, her time at Airways New Zealand has seen a few moves around the country. Following her Rotorua rating, she worked briefly at Tauranga Tower, then gained her Aerodrome and Approach rating at Hamilton Tower before moving to Auckland Tower. From there, she worked for around five years on Oceanic, moving to Christchurch in 2000 to become a full-time instructor at the Training Centre where she taught Aerodrome and Approach Control to ab-initio students. During that time, she also worked at Palmerston North Tower before moving to Christchurch Tower.

She currently has a 50/50 role within Airways where her time is shared between being a Christchurch Tower Controller and an Operational Performance Coach. She works all three positions in the tower – delivery, ground and aerodrome, while as a coach, Janet supports the Chief Controllers around the country with their roles and assists with overseeing consistency and standardisation among the towers.

What’s been the highlight of your career so far?

I have thoroughly enjoyed working at each location as each brings its own rewards. My peers are amazing. However, being an examiner has been the highlight of my career. I enjoy the assessment process, up-skilling others and passing on knowledge.

What’s most difficult about being an air traffic controller?

Being in the tower during significant earthquakes certainly has its moments. To be honest, sitting in an air-conditioned office with 360-degree views, being out of the elements, watching the sunrises, sunsets, passing fronts and controlling aircraft is a dream.

What’s the most challenging thing about being a female controller in a male-dominated industry?

When I first started out as a 21-year-old controller in Rotorua a few of the pilots didn’t enjoy being told what to do by a young female controller. They certainly voiced their opinion. However, age and experience has taught me not to take it to heart, as you cannot please everyone. As long as you are by the book – professional, standard, safe and transparent – then there is no room for complaints. Females are now everywhere in the aviation industry, we are the new norm.

Why did you join NZALPA?

I’ve been a member for about 30 years. I always thought it was important to have the union’s support and to be a member of the collective.

What made you volunteer yourself for the new role of Women’s Assistance Coordinator?

I have enjoyed my role as a Peer Support Volunteer (PSV) and stepping up to Women’s Assistance Coordinator was the natural next step. Before joining the Peer Assistance Network (PAN), I was a member of Victim Support where I worked closely with individuals following a traumatic experience. I like new roles where the team are heading into unchartered territory. The future is exciting and there are immense benefits in bringing the worlds of controllers and pilots closer together as we share similar hurdles and stressors.

How will the Women’s Assistance Line operate?

Enquires will initially be made through the Female PAN Coordinator, from there it will either be directed to a PAN PSV or to the Women’s Assistance Forum.

Pilot Angela Swann-Cronin

Angela Swann-Cronin is from the east coast tribes (iwi) of Ngāti Porou and Rongowhakaata but was born and raised in Rotorua. As New Zealand’s first Maori female pilot in the NZ Defence Force, she spent many years away from home before returning to Rotorua to raise her own family. When she’s not flying, Angela is involved with community events and motivating young people through guest-speaking roles at schools and events. Together with her husband, she has two young sons and has built a straw-bale home on a small block in Rotorua. She currently works as an Air Nelson First Officer based in Tauranga.

When did you know you wanted to be a pilot and why?

As a young teen I saw a pilot recruitment video on TV for the Air Force. From that point, I knew I wanted a career as a pilot – full of adventure, challenge and reward.

How did you find the training?

I trained with the RNZAF in Ohakea and finished my Wings Course in Whenuapai in 1999. Training was difficult but I'm so grateful for the experience and the career that followed.

What’s been the highlight of your career so far?

Flying C130 Hercules into Afghanistan, and working for the Canadian Forces for three years.

What’s most difficult about being a pilot?

These days balancing shift work and family life.

What’s the most challenging thing about being a female pilot in a male-dominated industry?

Early on in my career there weren't many women pilots in the RNZAF so there were moments of isolation and a lack of mentors. After choosing to take time out for family my career has not followed the same progression as that of my peers.

How long have you been an NZALPA member?

I joined ALPA as an Eagle pilot in 2014. Although relatively new to the union, I'd heard about the good work ALPA does as a float-plane pilot working for scenic tourism in Rotorua.

What made you put your hand up for the role of Women’s Assistance Coordinator?

I wanted to help other women in aviation enjoy successful and fulfilling careers knowing that they are supported and understood. I am already an ALPA Peer Support Volunteer and find the role extremely fulfilling.

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