Theresa Paves Way For Fijian Female Air Traffic Controllers

As the first Fijian female air traffic controller, Theresa O’Boyle-Levestam was one of many women who celebrated International Women’s Day.
09 Mar 2019 17:34
Theresa Paves Way For Fijian Female Air Traffic Controllers
Theresa O’Boyle-Levestam, 45, Controller Ground Safety at the Civil Aviation of Fiji (CAAF) with Fiji Airports General manager Air Traffic Management and Operations Isei Tudreu at the FHRI International Women’s Day celebration at the Fiji Airports Academy in Namaka, Nadi, on March 7, 2019. Photo: Waisea Nasokia

As the first Fijian female air traffic controller, Theresa O’Boyle-Levestam was one of many women who celebrated International Women’s Day in the country yesterday.

An example of women’s empow­erment, the 45-year-old now works as a Controller Ground Safety at the Civil Aviation of Fiji (CAAF) office.

She shared her thoughts during the Fiji Human Resources Institute International Women’s Day cele­bration at the Fiji Airports Acade­my in Namaka, Nadi, on Thursday.

The theme for this year’s celebra­tion was “Balance for Better”.

Career journey begins

“When I started as an air traf­fic control assistant in early 1992, there were no female air traffic controllers, in 1996 the first female air traffic controller was licensed,” Ms O’Boyle-Levestam said.

By January 1997, a second female air traffic controller had been ap­pointed. Now 22 years later, 23 fe­males have been licensed as air traffic controllers. That is 25 per cent of Fiji’s air traffic control li­cences issued.

There have been many times along her 27-year aviation journey, when she asked herself, ‘how did I get here?’

“I am a believer in hard work. This takes me back to my early years. I was unfortunate to have lost my father at a very young age, but was extremely fortunate to have had a truly amazing mother who knew many a thing about hard work and sacrifice,” Ms O’Boyle-Levestam said.

Her mother instilled in her the importance of education and en­couraged her and her siblings to used every opportunity they got.

Ingredients for success

“When I started out on my jour­ney to become an air traffic con­troller, no female had, at that stage, been issued with an air traffic con­trol licence, so, it was purely a male dominated field.

“This in itself was an obstacle, be­cause I had started off the journey with the mindset that maybe this just wasn’t an arena for females.

“However, I was lucky to have be­gun my journey with another fe­male colleague with whom I could talk when the going got tough. And it was during these times when it felt like we had hit a steep hill in our training that we were encour­aged by our lecturer to visualise the end goal and put in place neces­sary steps to reach it.

“The mind is indeed a power­ful thing. To illustrate how, if the mind believes something is pos­sible, then that something indeed becomes possible,” she added.

She also said another ingredient to success was mentorship.

“If you want to achieve a goal or a better way of life, then the people you surround yourself with are very important,” she said.

“Surrounding yourself with like-minded people who share the same values and who have similar goals will help propel you in the direc­tion you want to go instead of pull­ing you in a different direction.

“Look for a good mentor. Not just anyone who is willing and avail­able to mentor you, but someone who has the values you seek and is able to inspire you.

“I realised early on that if I want­ed to be a really good air traffic controller then I should look to the best controller there was on the ‘hot seat’.

“We were extremely fortunate that we had two very good instruc­tors when we began our training at the school and one of them hap­pened to be what was known back then as one of the ‘top-gun’ control­lers, meaning he was good.

“We needed to keep moving for­ward, at every step reminding us of the end goal and assuring us that it was achievable.

“One of these mentors (the top gun controller) not only saw me through my training to achieve my licence, but remained a mentor throughout my controlling career and many years later would be the reason I joined the Regulator and am where I am today.

Gender balance

“Women are entitled to the same opportunities as men and, I be­lieve, we are very lucky here in Fiji because we are provided with those opportunities on a daily basis. It is up to us to grab these opportunities with both hands.

“It is important that gender equal­ity as a core value is instilled in all our children at a young age so we continue to foster a culture of gen­der equality.

“A mindset change is needed to ensure respect, support and en­couragement of others regardless of gender. We need to be building each other up and not tear each other down. There is no limit to what we, as women (and men), can accomplish and even more so when we work together.

“No matter where we are in life, we need to inspire and empower the women around us and remem­ber that success is never reached alone. Knowledge and Success is even sweeter when it is shared,” she said.

Her background:

After Foundation Science stud­ies at the USP she joined the Civil Aviation Authority of Fiji at the end of 1991

  • Underwent Air Traffic Con­trol Training (Basic Air Traffic Control, Aerodrome Control, Approach Control, Area/Oceanic Control) at the CAAF School of Air Traffic Services.
  • Underwent Search and Res­cue Training at the Singa­pore Aviation Academy
  • Underwent Radar Control Training at the Korea Civil Aviation Training Centre
  • Attained Master’s in Busi­ness Administration – Gen­eral Management from the University of Fiji

Career pathway: (to date)

  • 2015 to date; Controller Ground Safety CAA Fiji
  • 2010 to 2015; Air Traffic Man­agement Inspector CAA Fiji
  • 2007 to 2010; Air Traffic Man­agement Officer CAAFI
  • 2005 to 2006; Manager Op­erations Air Traffic Manage­ment SASL
  • 2002 to 2004; Manager Nadi Control Tower SASL
  • 2002; Air Traffic Services In­structor, Civil Aviation Acad­emy SASL
  • 2000 to 2002; Team Coordina­tor, Air Traffic Management Centre SASL
  • 2000; Tower Coordinator, Nadi Control Tower SASL
  • 1999 to 2000; Team Leader, Nadi Air Traffic Manage­ment Centre, Strategic Air Services Limited (SASL)
  • 1998 to 1999; Area/Oceanic Controller (Non – Radar), Nadi Area Control Centre, CAAFI
  • 1996 to 1998; Aerodrome and Approach Controller (Non- Radar) Nadi Control Tower, CAAFI
  • 1992 to 1995; Air Traffic Con­trol Assistant and Flight Data Operator, Nadi Airport, CAAF
  • November 1991 Joined the Civil Aviation Authority of Fiji as an Air Traffic Control Assistant Trainee.


Edited by Jonathan Bryce


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