Veteran air traffic controller shares secrets to success

John Bowing with two Airservices employees at the original Sydney tower

Forging a career as an air traffic controller takes great self-discipline, confident decision making and the ability to perform under pressure – just ask razor-sharp 88-year-old veteran John Bowing – who still works out daily to keep in tip-top shape.

“I’m 25,” he quipped. “I’ve got an old wind-resistant exercise bike at home and do floor exercises every day – I don’t do it for anybody but myself.”

John, an Airservices Australia air traffic controller at the original Sydney tower from the 1960s, enjoyed a stellar 25-year aviation career following a 15-year stint in the Royal Navy.

Airservices Australia recently welcomed John back to his old stomping ground (pictured) to reminisce and boost his spirits after the devastating loss of his beloved wife of 66 years, Winsome, with whom he shared three adult children.
His aviation career began after he and his family embarked on an arduous six-week ship journey from England to Australia in 1965 in search of a better life, with John first becoming an air traffic controller aged 30.

Stoic and humble, John’s passionate about the rigours and excitement of sitting academic exams to become a controller. He also reflected on how aviation technologies have evolved over the years, enabling pilots and air traffic control to leverage new capabilities which underscore Australia’s reputation as a leader in aviation safety.

“Our air traffic technology in those days was practically third world compared to that used by today’s controllers,” he said. “We had no radar once you were at 160 miles out of Sydney, but you just learnt to bend with the breeze.

“I was always fascinated by aviation, particularly World War II aircraft. I absolutely loved my job and took great pride in it. One of my supervisors used to refer to me as the ‘doyen of the southern skies’.

“I got to work from the best office in Sydney with 360-degree views of the city.”

John had these pearls of wisdom for next-generation controllers about what they’ll need to perform at their best.

“You’ve got to really want to do it,” he said, “If you feel in your heart of hearts that you’re cut out for it, it can lead to such a satisfying job that you don’t have to take home with you.

“But you’ve got people’s lives in your hands, so you need to have a lot of focus and to do the job by the book.

“Being an air traffic controller gave me a great, happy life.”

Airservices Australia is responsible for the safe and efficient management of 11% of the world’s airspace and the provision of aviation rescue fire-fighting services at Australia’s busiest airports. We connect people with their world safely – linking family and friends, generating economic activity, creating jobs and facilitating trade and tourism.
For more information visit www.airservicesaustralia.com.

Posted on: December 2, 2021

More News

Related topics

Airservices provides safe, secure, efficient and environmentally responsible services to the aviation industry.

Airservices Australia strikes new in-principle Enterprise Agreement with United Fire Fighters Union of Australia

Airservices Australia is pleased to announce it has finalised an in-principle, 12-month Enterprise Agreement with the United Fire Fighters Union of Australia Aviation Branch (UFUAV). Airservices has been engaging with UFUAV and the Australian Public Service Commission to finalise a new Agreement in line with the Public Sector Interim Workplace Arrangements. Under the new Agreement, […]

Santa is coming and so are the planes!

The first sign of tinsel in the shops, empty shelves where the Christmas lights once were. The signs are unmistakable: Santa is coming, and so are the planes back to our skies. According to Airservices Australia, the organisation responsible for safely managing 11 per cent of the world’s airspace, Christmas 2022 is going to be […]

Brisbane New Parallel Runway Flight Paths Post Implementation Review Draft Report available for comment

Airservices Australia is inviting the Brisbane community to comment on the Brisbane New Parallel Runway Flight Paths Post Implementation Review (PIR) Draft Report. The PIR Draft Report outlines the recommendations Airservices will progress following both the Trax International Final Report and Airservices’ review of the New Parallel Runway Flight Paths – with a focus on […]

Airservices marks International Day of the Air Traffic Controller

The nation’s air navigation service provider, Airservices Australia, is today celebrating International Day of the Air Traffic Controller. Airservices is proud of its world-class safety record and safety-first culture. Our highly skilled air traffic controllers are among the world’s best, managing the safe and orderly flow of aircraft into, out of, and between airports throughout […]