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Drawing roads in the sky

Written by: More Matshediso

Transport Month

Mpho Chepape is a Flight Procedure Design Specialist. He designs routes procedures in the sky to protect flights from crashing into obstacles such as buildings and other structures.A career that may not be popular to most young people exposed Chepape to a whole new world.

Pilots do not just fly aeroplanes all over the sky; they have to use certain routes and follow procedures to ensure that they take-off and land safely.

The only way for pilots to know which route to follow from one airport to another is through services of a Flight Procedure Design Specialist.

This Transport month, Vuk’uzenzele spoke to Mpho Chepape (29) who is one of the four Flight Procedure Design Specialists at the Air Traffic Navigation Services (ATNS).

ATNS is a company that renders air traffic control and management solutions for South Africa, as well as 10 percent of the world’s airspace.

Chepape’s job is to design routes for use by air traffic controllers and pilots. He said a key priority in his field of work is safety.

“We design route procedures both locally and internationally to protect flights from crashing into obstacles such as buildings and other structures. What I normally tell people when they ask me about my job is that I draw roads in the sky,” he said.

Chepape said safety is number one priority in aviation, so he constantly has to analyse the environment where flights will be taking off and where they will be landing in order to avoid unfortunate incidents.

Part of his job is to liaise with stakeholders including pilots, airports management, air traffic controllers and the South African Weather Services in order for him to design efficient flight procedures.

He said his job is exciting yet complex because the environment is not always the same.

“Every day is different, so there is no routine in designing the routes for flights,” he said.

He joined the company in 2011 as an air traffic service officer.

“I had no idea that there are Flight Procedure Design Specialists. I only learned about this when I was an Air Traffic Service Officer and then I applied to get the job,” he said.

Chepape has undergone an  extensive flight procedure design course at the Air Navigation Institute in Switzerland and then received 12 to 18 months on-the-job training.

Chepape adds that high school scholars interested in pursuing a career in flight procedure design should ensure that they do well in in Mathematics and Science.