Our department (Flight Planning) plans the safe operation of an aircraft from the gate at the departure aerodrome to the completion of the flight at the gate of the arrival aerodrome.
Air New Zealand Flight Planning is responsible for the compilation and provision of a fuel and Air Traffic Control flight plan, notices to airmen (NOTAMS), weather information and related pertinent company information to the flight crew operating the flight.
In addition, to comply with the legal requirements of operating twin engine jets over the network routes, an integral part of Flight Planning is Flight Watch. Successful flight planning involves the economical selection of a route, taking into consideration factors such as en-route wind and weather issues, suitable emergency airports, aircraft performance and all other safety-related information from appropriate aviation agencies. Flight Watch monitors progress of Air New Zealand and customer airline flights.
This involves monitoring weather, airspace, route or aerodrome closures and other issues that can affect the safe operation of flight in airspace. Flight Watch is often the first point of contact between aircrew and operations. Flight Planning and Flight Watch communicate with the aircraft via ACARS, Sat-phone and HF (High Frequency long range radio) when the aircraft is airborne. On the ground, flight plans are delivered to the crew at remote briefing stations and through agents at various outstations.
When required, Flight Planners brief crew at Airline Operations. Flight Planning is part of ‘Day of Operations’ and we are continuously challenged with the happenings on the day. It is a great place to be kept on your toes, where your knowledge and experience can have a big impact on the passenger’s journey.
Where did your journey start?
I grew up in Europe and since childhood I was always fascinated with aircraft and the concept of flying; I remember using every chance given to me to stop by airports or airfields and have a look at what was going on.
Having said that my first professional choice was to train as a farmer and after getting a diploma in farming I worked on several properties for different farmers. The wish came to change my professional environment and to look for a job around aircrafts. Still in Europe, and without any work history in aviation, I got a job in airport catering, first cleaning the big dishwashers and later loading and offloading catering material as a catering truck driver; this was fantastic, being finally able to spend lots of time inside and around aircrafts.
After six years in catering, I moved on, working with passengers in Special Assistance and later as a Check In and Gate Agent. During this time, I had the opportunity to experience what can change a bad travel experience to a good one for our customers; it also gave me the opportunity to experience what it means to go the extra mile for our customers to make it an unforgettable journey.
After some years, the door opened for me to join the Load Master/Load Control team and I ended up producing load plans and load sheets back on the tarmac, surrounded by fascinating aircrafts, sounds of engines and the smell of jet fuel. During this time and beside my work, I got the Private Pilot licence and in a second stage, the Commercial/IFR Pilot licence.
Still overseas, the work experience and pilot licence gave me the opportunity to apply for a job in Flight Planning, and I ended up preparing documents and briefing pilots for their upcoming flight and monitoring flights all over the world giving the flying crew support wherever possible.
As a family, we wished to move to another part of the world, and to have a change in the living and work environment; that was the moment where New Zealand and Air New Zealand started to become reality. A bit more than eight years ago we loaded our stuff in a container and moved to New Zealand, shortly after I was able to join the Flight Planning team in Air New Zealand.
Where’s your journey taken you so far within Air New Zealand?
In the beginning of my journey with Air New Zealand, I trained as a Domestic and International Flight Planner, Flight Watcher and after a time as a Flight Planner, I have been promoted as a Supervisor. In this position, I oversee the shift, support my team during a planning day and give direction when it comes to a more critical situation.
Secondly, I lead and coach a team of Planners, support them in their career path and have periodical performance evaluations. Flight Planning is an IT system heavy workplace, which requires continuous monitoring, support and end user training. In addition to my supervisor role, I am also a Flight Planning System Subject Matter Expert and in this specific role, Air New Zealand is continuously offering me the possibility to improve and expand my knowledge, challenge and analyse processes for a possible better way and finally yet importantly, implement new solutions.
Where do you hope your journey will take you?
In Flight Planning we are continuously reviewing our systems and process. To eventually be considered for a possible leadership role in the company would also be welcomed. In the meantime, I enjoy learning anything that will help me to improve myself in the job I am doing.
What Air New Zealand value do you feel you best represent and why?
Air New Zealand values are all applicable in a way or another and I can represent them inside and outside the work environment. The one that I possibly represent the best is the “can do” value and brand characteristic, empowering me to approach the daily challenges that we are confronted with in our operation, with a positive and solution seeking attitude for the benefit of our business.
What’s the best story you’ve been able to tell after a day at work?
There are heaps of good stories that I would be able to tell, probably enough to fill a book - but one that comes in to my mind is the situation that we had to face in 2011, when the volcanic ash from the Chilean volcano Puyehue-Cordon Caulle partially closed the airspace used for our operations.
We were all on high alert in Flight Planning, dealing with a constantly changing environment and challenged to keep the airline flying. I remember how we were able to run Flight Planning and Flight Watch like a well-oiled engine, continuously changing and improving process.
I was proud to be a piece in the puzzle that kept Air New Zealand operating, also after some competitors stopped their operation for days, losing some valuable customers.