February 6, 2020
Leave Ordinary Behind: Q&A with Chase Turcotte
Meet Chase Turcotte, a globetrotting snowboarder who hails from Edmonton, Alberta. Chase, who has worked as an air traffic controller for the past seven years, says his career with NAV CANADA has afforded him the ability to combine his passion for travel and snowboarding, while being part of a collaborative and highly skilled team.
Here’s how Chase leaves ordinary behind.
WHAT IS YOUR ROLE AND HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WORKING AT NAV CANADA?
I have been an employee at NAV CANADA for around seven years. Within that time, I have been a licensed instrument flight rules controller for more than four years.
HOW DO YOU DESCRIBE WHAT YOU DO FOR A LIVING TO YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS?
I like to start by describing the airspace I manage. Many people don’t know that airspace in Canada is divided into different flight information regions. With my instrument flight rules specialty, from my work station in Edmonton, I manage high level airspace from the North Pole south, including the Yukon, North West Territories, Nunavut, Northern British Columbia, Northern Alberta, Northern Saskatchewan, Northern Manitoba and Northern Ontario – roughly three million square kilometers.
Within that airspace, we make sure that all air traffic moves safely, orderly and efficiently. Believe it or not, most of the traffic flying through northern Canada never lands at Canadian airports. A great deal of the traffic from Eastern United States heading to Asia will fly through our airspace, as well as traffic from Western United States going to Europe. We also handle flights headed to the Middle East that sometimes go right up and over the North Pole – the quickest route from Dubai to cities in California.
WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO WORK AT NAV CANADA?
NAV CANADA is known as a world leader in air navigation, which is thanks to the dedicated women and men who work here. Also, being a part of this team is inspiring.
It is a great feeling to be one of around 2,000 individuals in our country who are highly skilled and able to work as an air traffic controller. I love that with my career, no two days are the same. I also feel intellectually stimulated, something I was lacking in previous jobs. On a personal note, I have made some amazing lifelong friends throughout the international air traffic control community because of my career with NAV CANADA.
WHAT HAS SURPRISED YOU ABOUT THE CAREER PATH YOU HAVE CHOSEN?
What surprised me the most is just how little the public knows about what we do as air traffic controllers. Most people think we are the ground marshals directing planes into/out of the gates with orange batons. This is an important job, however it is not at all what air traffic controllers do. Others don’t realize that planes fly at night and that our control centers and many towers are staffed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE CONSIDERING A CAREER AT NAV CANADA?
NAV CANADA is a great company to work for and being an air traffic controller is the best job in the world. I always tell people interested in air traffic control to go for it. When possible, I also try to bring them in for a tour at my area control centre and a local tower, if possible, to give them a sense of the various career opportunities.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVOURITE THINGS TO DO OUTSIDE OF WORK?
Travel is my number one passion. Being an air traffic controller has allowed me the flexibility and means to be able to travel all over the world. This past year, for example, I was able to visit six continents. I also like to snowboard and sometimes combined my love of travel and snowboarding, having gone to Australia, New Zealand, France, Austria, and Switzerland, to enjoy some of the best hills around the world.
WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT TO DATE?
Getting my air traffic control license. Most controllers will tell you the hardest part about our career is getting the job. The training is demanding, but the reward is worth the effort.
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT YOURSELF AS YOUR CAREER PROGRESSED?
How much information the human brain is capable of remembering. I can still remember arriving at my first day of training and wondering how I was going to learn and memorize all the information needed to be successful at this career. It takes time, but through many hours of studying and repetition it is achievable.
Leave Ordinary Behind is an ongoing series that shines a spotlight on people who have pursued unique careers at NAV CANADA.
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