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Saudi Arabian air traffic controllers graduate in New Zealand

Posted 22 November 2016 · Add Comment

A group of Saudi Arabian students have graduated from air traffic control studies with Airways New Zealand today, as the organisation helps to fill a critical gap globally for training of air traffic controllers.

The 26 students graduated at a ceremony at Massey University in Palmerston North, marking the completion of a successful two-year investment by the General Authority of Civil Aviation of Saudi Arabia (GACA), and the Saudi Arabian National Guard.

The students arrived in January 2015 and spent their first year in New Zealand studying English with Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT) and Kaplan International College in Auckland. They then started a 12-month air traffic control (ATC) course at Airways' purpose-built training facility on the Massey University campus in Palmerston North.

In the past year Airways has trained about 150 ab-initio ATC students in New Zealand and at overseas campuses through its international training programmes, Airways Training General Manager Sharon Cooke says.

“This is the third group of GACA students trained in New Zealand over the past five years.  We’re pleased to be providing top quality training services for overseas students, and at the same time helping to alleviate the current global shortage of air traffic controllers. This is a particular issue in the Middle East where air traffic growth is expected to continue,” she said.

“We’re proud of our on-going relationship with GACA which continues to send trainees to Airways due to the success of our programme. To date, all trainees have successfully completed on-job-training to become licenced ATCs once returning home,” said Cooke.

Ahmed Algharawi, one of the graduating students, says he enjoyed the pace and style of learning and living in New Zealand. 

“It was a bit of a shock coming to Nelson at first because my English wasn’t as good as it is now, but living with a homestay family really helped me improve. Living in New Zealand took some getting used to but now I’m going to find it hard to leave.”

To help students adjust to living and learning in New Zealand, Airways used social media to create a learning community with the students before they arrived and while studying, with a dedicated Facebook page supporting them on anything from questions about their studies to their homestay environment and the culture in New Zealand.


The students will now return to Saudi Arabia to begin their on-the-job training through GACA and Saudi Arabian National Guard.


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