‘Lift off’ for Waterford Airport’s new Air Traffic Controller, Tom Colbert


Pictured is Waterford Airport's new Air Traffic Controller Tom Colber t(seated) with Donal Leahy, Air Traffic Services Manager, Waterford Airport, Eamonn McGettigan, Assistant Manager in Services to Business with FÁS, Geoff Spencer, FAS  Jim Coughlan, FAS and Graham Doyle, CEO, Waterford Airport.


Waterford City man, Tom Colbert, has reason to celebrate this week as he begins work at Waterford Airport as a newly-qualified Air Traffic Controller.

Tom began his training in February 2007, having undergone an intensive selection process, explains Donal Leahy, Air Traffic Services Manager at Waterford Airport. “All the applicants were rigorously tested – the Irish Aviation Authority provided us with a detailed aptitude test for our potential Air Traffic Controller.  We were only able to select one applicant to proceed with the training programme, so it was very important that we chose the best person for the job,” continued Mr Leahy.

Tom began his basic training in Sligo, before moving to Rudloe College, Shoreham Airport in the UK, which is dedicated to Air Traffic Control training. Having successfully completed basic training and all exams, he then returned to Waterford Airport to complete three month’s on the job training. During these three months, Tom was able to work as an Air Traffic Controller under the close supervision of his instructor.

“We were immediately impressed by Tom’s great enthusiasm for the job,” says Mr Leahy. “His positive attitude has been evident to us since he began his training, and I’m delighted that he has successfully completed his training.”

Tom, who lives in Kilmeaden with his wife Denise and daughter Rhiannon, previously worked for Hasbro Ireland as a store supervisor.

“I didn’t have any experience of working in aviation before I started my training”, says Mr Colbert. “I had a great interest in NASA and aeronautics, but it had never occurred to me that I would have the opportunity to work in this field.

“It’s a real lifestyle change for me,” he adds. “Being an Air Traffic Controller is a totally different career, but it’s this variety that really appeals to me. I like the fact that every day in the job is different, and that you never know what it will hold.

“At the moment, I’m getting used to my new job. I think this is a great time to begin with Waterford Airport, as it gets busier all the time and new flights scheduled to the Continent from May 1. I think the airport is really on the up so it’s very exciting to be part of this.”

Donal Leahy comments: “It is unusual for us here at Waterford Airport to train an Air Traffic Controller from scratch. It is a very expensive process, and one which we would have found much more difficult had it not been for the funding and other assistance we received from FÁS.”

FÁS supported Waterford Airport through their ‘One Step Up’ initiative. Designed to up-skill people in employment, the initiative provides training and development programmes to assist individuals to build on their competency levels and obtain a recognised qualification.

Eamonn McGettigan, Assistant Manager in Services to Business with FÁS, said: “I am very pleased to have been able to provide this assistance to Waterford Airport. FÁS recognises the importance of learning and training to regional economic development, and we would consider Waterford Airport as being vital to the economic well-being of the southeast. I would like to congratulate Tom on his achievement, and Waterford Airport on their commitment to staff training and development.”


February  2008