July 12, 2018

Meet Julie LeBreton: Instructor

Julie LeBreton is an instructor at the Toronto area control centre, where she helps train the next generation of NAV CANADA air traffic controllers. This is her NAV CANADA story.

How did your career begin?

I began working for Transport Canada as a university summer student in 1992 and completed a co-op placement there as an administrative assistant. I returned for a couple of more terms working as a scheduling assistant and it was during this time that I got to speak to many air traffic controllers and really experience that environment. With a little encouragement from my colleagues, I applied to the program to become an air traffic controller.

I was invited to write the aptitude test, and then selected for an interview. After successfully completing that I was offered a position to begin my basic training to become an air traffic controller in June 1995.

The training was challenging, but fun.

What was your career as an air traffic controller like and how did it lead to you becoming an instructor?

I began my training as a VFR controller at Hamilton tower in after graduating from basic training in February 1996. That was a great experience, with an interesting mix of characters that shaped my early days of controlling. In September 1998, I began training in Toronto Terminal, and qualified there in November 1999.

During my time as a controller in the terminal, I was offered the opportunity to teach new students, first in the simulator and then as a classroom instructor. It was a rewarding experience to watch students learn new skills and have their “ah-ha” moments when a concept clicked for them. When the students progressed to their on-the-job-training it was fun to work alongside them in the terminal as they continued to learn and ultimately earn their licence.

What is it like being a full-time instructor?

A position as a full-time instructor became available in the summer of 2017. I applied for that job, and started in November. My role now is as an IFR Program Specialist.

Part of my job as an instructor is teaching students on the basic course. I spend time coaching them in the simulator and sharing my experiences as a terminal controller. I also support instructors who teach specialty courses to students after they graduate from their basic course. These are my primary roles, but I also have the opportunity to build new curricula, design training workshops for our instructors and improve the training program for future students.

The school is a dynamic place as we always have students in different phases of training. Students spend about 5 months in basic training, then 6-10 weeks of specialty classroom training followed by simulation. Then they move to on-the-job-training, which typically lasts about a year.

I am fortunate to work among a great team of people who are committed to student success. We are always working on improvements to training to benefit both the students and instructors.

Any words of wisdoms for future air traffic controllers?

Be prepared to work hard! There is a lot of information to learn and it is presented at a fast pace.

Leverage the support of your peers, and remember: it’s not a competition! There are jobs for everyone who successfully completes training.

You will need to be prepared to struggle at times –  very few students make it through the entire training process without any bumps in the road.  At the same time though you need to make sure to have fun during the process, and to recognize that in an industry like aviation you are going to be learning forever.


Congratulations. You’re right, we continue to learn in the aviation industry because new concepts keep coming out.

Great post! I look forward to learning from you and the other instructors over the next ~20 months in the IFR program.


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