Unsung heroes of the Namibian skies

By Maggie Forcelledo Paz

Air traffic controllers play a crucial role in ensuring the safe and efficient movement of aircraft within controlled airspace and on the ground. These professionals use radar, communication systems and their expertise to guide planes during takeoff, landing and en-route phases, preventing collisions and maintaining order in the skies. With a high level of responsibility, air traffic controllers must stay alert, make quick decisions, and communicate effectively to ensure the smooth flow of air traffic. They provide a pivotal multifaceted role in ensuring the safety and efficiency of air travel. Their key responsibilities include collision prevention, monitoring aircraft movement and emergency response.

Air traffic controllers are the unsung heroes of the aviation industry, and their role in Namibia is no less significant. They are known for their rigorous training, high level of professionalism, and dedication to safety. They work around the clock, employing state-of-the-art technology to monitor air traffic, communicate with pilots and provide vital information about weather conditions, air routes and potential hazards. Their work ensures that every takeoff and landing is as safe as possible, thereby safeguarding the lives of passengers and crew alike.

By managing flight schedules, minimising delays and optimising air routes, air traffic controllers play a crucial role in ensuring that the aviation sector operates smoothly. This not only benefits airlines by improving turnaround times and reducing fuel consumption but also enhances the overall passenger experience by ensuring timely arrivals and departures.

The strategic location of Namibia, bordering the South Atlantic Ocean, places it on key air routes between Southern Africa and Europe, as well as connecting to other continents. This positions Namibia as a critical hub in the global air traffic network, with its air traffic controllers playing a vital role in managing the intersection of numerous international flight paths.

In addition to their day-to-day responsibilities, air traffic controllers are pivotal in emergency situations. Their expertise and calm under pressure can make the difference in critical moments, providing guidance to pilots and coordinating with emergency response teams to handle incidents with the utmost efficiency and care. Their contribution to Namibia’s aviation industry and to the safety and well-being of the flying public cannot be overstated. As ambassadors of the sky, they embody a spirit of excellence, dedication and unwavering commitment to safety. Their role is indispensable in maintaining the high standards of aviation safety and efficiency that Namibia is known for, making them true heroes of the skies.

Continuous upliftment  

According to the executive director of the Namibia Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Ms Toska Sem, the NCAA takes immense pride in their team of over 50 highly trained air traffic controllers. “These professionals are the cornerstone of the NCAA, the regulatory body operating under the Ministry of Works and Transport. The NCAA assumes a momentous role in upholding the safety and security of civil air operations within the expanse of Namibia’s airspace, while simultaneously providing vital air navigation services to every airspace user,” says Ms Sem. 

Ms Sem further emphasises that the professionalism, competence and dedication of Namibian air traffic controllers not only contribute to the protection of Namibian skies but also to the advancement of their air traffic management system. She adds that the NCAA remains steadfast in its commitment to support and empower air traffic controllers, ensuring that they have access to continuous training, cutting-edge equipment and a conducive working environment.  


Tuahangauka Mbijezuva Hengari, approach radar air traffic controller, has been in the industry for 12 years. She says she always wanted to be a pilot, having been fascinated by aircraft since childhood. Hengari says the decision to become an air traffic controller was made with excellent intentions and not by chance. “Thanks to extensive exposure to the aviation industry and an internal mentor, I was exposed to the profession of air traffic controller, which is a fascinating and unusual vocation. The complexity of my chosen employment is what I value the most. As a strong-willed individual, I enjoy being challenged since it allows me to grow and realise my full potential,” says Hengari


“The position is worthwhile to pursue because it allows me to lead aircraft to their final destination in a timely and safe manner. Of course, another advantage of having this job is the flexible working hours. As an air traffic controller, I, like most others, have reached the peak of my profession. In addition, I’d like to go more into the human factors of aviation, with a focus on Namibian aviation,” Hengari explains.


Nghidipohamba Mokaxwa, an area radar air traffic controller with 15 years’ experience in the industry, says he became an air traffic controller because it is a unique job and requires one to always think on one’s feet, “almost like playing chess”. Mokaxwa says the hours are flexible and as a shift worker one can pursue other interests. “Nothing is ever the same and you can use different methods to achieve aircraft separation and be more expeditious with your traffic. As with most people, my career goals are to climb the corporate ladder into management and become an industry expert,” says Mokaxwa.



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