Friendly voices rewarded at airport control tower

23:44, May 19 2014
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After years spent keeping an eye on New Plymouth's skies, Ray Shanks and his team have been named the country's friendliest airport control tower.

New Plymouth might not have the busiest airport control tower in New Zealand, but that just means they have more time to be nice.

Ray Shanks has been chief controller at New Plymouth airport for 27 years now and last week accepted the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (Aopa) award for running New Zealand's friendliest tower - less than two weeks before he is due to step down from the role.

The modest 60-year-old said gaining the award was the result of a combined effort by the tower's team of five.

Traditional manners were not part of air traffic control speak, and Shanks insisted the award was nothing to do with hellos, pleases or thank-yous over the radio.

"We're a smaller airfield and everyone knows each other. It's like an extended family.

"We work by ourselves a lot, so you need to all be able to get on."

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Kylie Dolman, 31, was set to take over from Shanks as chief controller on May 26, and the team hoped to retain the annual award in 2015.

Shanks would remain working at the tower, but Dolman would head the team.

Aopa representatives Phil Pacey and 91-year-old life member Nevill Harding flew from South Auckland's Ardmore airport in a Cessna 206 to present the New Plymouth team with a wooden plaque and a trophy fashioned from an old aircraft piston.

Pacey said the New Plymouth team had come a close second many times, but tower's dealings with a 30 aircraft safari this year won this year's award for them.

He said it was a great honour that shouldn't be taken lightly. "We're thrilled to be able to give this to you."

Taranaki Daily News