16 November 2011

A trip to the doctor

I had the first part of my class 3 medical yesterday, part of the requirement of the ATC job.

There are three types of aviation medical in Australia. The class one is for professional pilots, those that fly for airlines, charter companies, ag pilots, etc. The class two is for private pilots and those learning to fly. I used to have one of those, but it expired about five years ago, since I haven't flown a plane for years and couldn't see the point of renewing it. The class three is for ATCs.

Anyway, the medical was in the city. I don't go into the city very often these days since I left my old job over three years ago. Boy am I glad I don't work in the city anymore.

The medical involved filling out pages and pages of questions on a form and then a few tests by a nurse. I swear the form filling took longer than the actual examination by the doctor. I did the usual reading of the eye chart, had my blood pressure taken, got weighed and measured, and had to do a colour vision test. All stuff most people have probably done heaps of times throughout their lives. There was a hearing test where I sat with a set of headphones on and pressed a button each time I heard a beep. I could also hear the air-conditioning and the occasional car door slamming, which meant the test conditions weren't exactly ideal.

The one test that I'd never had done before was an ECG. I'd expected this to be a stress test on a treadmill or exercise bike, but all I had to do was lay down and have sensors stuck to me. Now, I have a fairly hairy chest. The nurse put the first two sensors on my chest, then decided there was too much hair and she was going to have to get the clippers out. So she ripped the first two off. I nearly jumped off the table, something that isn't easy to do when you're lying down. I now have a weird looking chest with bald patches between the nipples.

Another test that isn't part of the class 3, but is a requirement of the job was a drug and alcohol test. This, as you can imagine, is simply a case of peeing in a jar. There are different reagents in the jar that test for different drugs, like cocaine and marijuana. I learnt long ago not to go for a pee just before having a medical. You end up standing in the gents for a hell of a long time if you do. Trust me, I've made the same mistake twice before, but not recently.

The rest of the medical was fairly straight forward. The doctor checked my eyes, listened to my lungs, made sure all my joints were working, etc. Then she gave me a referral for blood tests and an ophthamological exam. The blood tests are to check my blood sugar and cholesterol levels. The eye test is a bit more involved, to the point I won't be able to drive after it, so Donna will have to go with me. I've had the same test done before a few years ago, and it's not pleasant.

Once all that's done and I have my certificate from CASA that'll be the final hurdle. It'll then just be a case of packing up and moving to Melbourne.

05 November 2011

ATC the journey

I thought I'd give you a quick run down on what's involved in getting an ATC job here in Australia.

Back in July, I put in my initial application via the Airservices Australia website. About three weeks after that, I got an email inviting me to do an online test. This was a bit like an IQ test, it involved recognising groups of numbers and letters, mental arithmetic against the clock, and some written comprehension stuff. I wasn't sure I'd done all that well with numbers and letters thing, but three weeks later I got another email congratulating me and inviting me to book a time for a phone interview.

Well, the day of the phone interview came around, it was booked for 3PM. 3PM came around and no call. 3.10PM came around and still no call. By about twenty past I was starting to get a little worried and was typing up an email to find out if anything was wrong. I'd already checked my resume to make sure they had the right number. Then the phone rang. It turned out the building in Canberra that the HR person who called me worked in had been evacuated. False alarm.

Again, I didn't think I'd done all that well. Some of my answers were a bit feeble. The next morning though I had another email, this one was inviting me to a day of interviews and assessments. A whole day.

If you get this far you're doing well. Someone on my assessment day said that they had around 1800 applicants originally. They only get 6 people in for each assessment and they had 3 days of assessment in Brisbane that week.

So, on the third week of September, I rocked up at Brisbane Centre, right next to the control tower at Brisbane Airport. I'd been there the week before and taken a wrong turn, ending up at the domestic terminal. I did it again this day as well, but still got there in time.

The six of us introduced ourselves and sat around chatting before the assessments started. It turned out I wasn't the only one that had taken a wrong turn on the way. The good thing about this kind of selection is that we weren't competing against each other. If we were all suitable for the position we'd all get in, so in a way, it would be in our interests to work together.

We were then introduced to the assessors, some were HR people and the others were experienced ATCs, then we were each given a timetable for the day.

My assessment started with a couple of computer based tests, including a rerun of the one I'd done at home, to make sure I could do it under different conditions and also to make sure I hadn't got someone else to do the test at home.

Then I had a bit of a break in the lunch room, after which I went upstairs and did the simulation exercise, with one assessor giving me instructions and scenarios that I had to deal with and the other taking notes. Then it was back to the lunch room.

Then came the group exercise, to see how we worked as a team. We must have worked pretty well together, since we apparently got a lot further through it than most groups.

Next was a one on one interview. This was a behavioural interview in the STAR format. Basically it's situation or task, action, result. I was asked about different situations, what actions I'd taken and the result of those actions. Stuff like, give me an example where you provided good customer service. Really easy to do when you work in a supermarket.

The last bit was a briefing exercise. Basically I was given some paperwork with information on it, given 20 minutes to prepare, then I had to do a 10 minute presentation.

If my descriptions are a bit vague, that's because we were asked at the beginning not to divulge too much of the assessment process, lest we give other applicants an unfair advantage. I know some applicants don't listen to that and tell others what goes on. I suspect it's more the unsuccessful applicants that do that though. Kind of a case of sour grapes.

Anyway, at the end of the day I was told I should hear something in about 4 weeks. Well 4 weeks came and went, I hadn't heard from my referees to say they'd been contacted, which would have been a sure sign I was a contender. Then on Wednesday my mobile rang while I was at work. When I got home I checked my messages and the missed call was from Airservices Australia. I rang back, but because of daylight savings down south, my call went unanswered.

I emailed my old boss the next morning to see if he'd been contacted. Before he got back to me, I got confirmation that I was in. Then my old boss replied saying, "I meant to let you know..." It turns out he'd been contacted by, not only Airservices, but also the Bureau of Meteorology. So it seems I might get an offer there as well.

So there you go. It took about 4 months from my initial application to getting an offer. I've heard of people having to wait 18 months, so I'm pretty lucky that they've streamlined the recruitment process.

All things going well, I should have an office with a view in around 18 months.

03 November 2011

The right stuff

Remember my recent post about an office with a view?

Well, it seems that several people involved in recruiting at Airservices Australia believe I have what it takes to become an air traffic controller, because this morning I got offered a job. I start on the tower course in May next year.

This means I'll be spending most of next year living in Melbourne, we'll be moving down there just as it's starting to get cold in May. Once I finish the academy training, I'll get posted to a tower somewhere in Australia (we have 28 towers around Oz) for on the job training, then I'll be a fully fledged ATC. I could be the person, when you go on holiday, that lets you land at which ever airport I end up working at. I could even conceivably be the person that gives permission to land to all sorts of royalty, presidents, etc, even John Travolta who flies his own 707 and often comes down under.

Not that I'm going to let the power go to my head. I could end up here.