Happy international women’s day!

8 March 2018

EUROCONTROL strongly supports the European Commission’s Women in Transport – EU Platform for Change initiative, as well as ICAO’s Women in Aviation strategy, which aims at strengthening women’s participation in the transport sector.

We’re keen to see more women working in our field, air traffic management (ATM), especially in operational roles which traditionally have a low percentage of women even if the number of women who have been embarking on aviation careers has started to rise slowly over the last decade.

Our operational teams in Brussels (Network Manager – NM) and Maastricht (Maastricht Upper Area Control Centre – MUAC) decided to celebrate 8 March, International Women’s Day, with shifts adjusted to have more women working in our control rooms.

The Women’s Day in both ops rooms is part of an initiative launched by the female controllers themselves at both sites to show the world that a career as a controller, who needs to multi-task, focus and problem-solve, is one in which women can genuinely excel.

Our NMOC staff in NM deal with on 29,000 average flights a day across a network spanning 41 States and 2 Comprehensive Agreement states – keeping a network encompassing 4,500 airspace users and 530 airports running smoothly by providing the ATFCM services and working to mitigate adverse impacts on the network such as weather and airspace closures. 36 women work in the NMOC operational Domains (Flight Planning, Airspace Data and Flow Management). 

At MUAC, our ATCOs handle some 5,000 flights each day in the complex upper airspace of the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and north-west Germany with its pool of 300 air traffic controllers. Overall, 20% of the staff working in the control room in Maastricht are women, but this morning that figure was close to 70% while between 12:00 and 13:00 local time it was nearly 100%. This means that pilots flying through MUAC’s airspace at that time heard only female voices on the frequency.

Besides controllers, these numbers also include supervisors, flight data officers, flow management officers and other operational staff. The first female controller at MUAC, Natascha Koczy, started training in November 1985 and completed her first license in 1987. She was the only female controller at Maastricht for two years and the first in the Brussels Sectors.

“At that time it was a pleasant surprise for pilots to hear a female controller on the frequency; there were a lot of nice remarks. It was a special time and I (nearly) always enjoyed working in a male team during my 22 years as a controller. For me, being an air traffic controller is still the best job in the world!” said Natascha who is now Team Leader in the MUAC Training and Proficiency section.

MUAC’s experience shows that female applicants have an equal chance of passing the selection procedure and going on to excel at the profession, and in recent years, 25-30% of air traffic controller applicants at MUAC were female. In the latest group starting training just last week, four of the ten youngsters are female, the welcome product of recent inclusive recruitment initiatives. Recruitment for the next student controller training course starting in October 2018 is ongoing and open to all talented applicants with the appropriate skills and potential.

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