When Steph Kelly is back home in Port Talbot her friends keep her grounded. A good job too because when she is at work the 28-year-old is getting aircraft at the world’s busiest dual runway airport into the sky and off to their destination.

Steph, who was brought up in the Baglan area of Port Talbot and whose friends and relatives still live in the town, is an air traffic controller with NATS at Heathrow Airport where she and her colleagues handle nearly 1,400 flights every day.

And this week she is starring in the BBC’s Airport Live programme over four consecutive nights on BBC2.

Steph Kelly

Steph Kelly

“It has been really exciting to be involved in the programme for the past few weeks,” said Steph. “The programme is going to give a really good insight into the sort if things that we do.

“I hope that the travelling public will have a better understanding of what air traffic control is all about when they see this programme. They will see how important the work that we do is for keeping the aircraft on time – I think a lot of the time people don’t really think too much about what controllers are doing.”

Steph joined NATS in 2007 after completing her Psychology Degree at Swansea University. After completing her initial training she was sent to Heathrow Tower in September 2008 and finally completed her training to gain her Air Traffic Control licence in February 2010.

“This job is not like any other job,” said Steph. “It needs people whose brains work in a certain way. I get a massive buzz out of working here.

“It is rare to work in a place where everyone is as skilled as you are, as well-trained as you are and all working to achieve the same aim. It’s a great atmosphere to be in.

“When people find out what I do for a living they immediately think it must be really stressful or lots of pressure. They can’t quite believe me when I tell them it is not like that at all. Yes it is a really responsible job but we are so well-trained and have such a fantastic team of people who are equally well-trained around us that it is not stressful at all.”


We caught up with Steph last week at Heathrow and videoed the conversation. You can watch it below:

Find out more about Airport Live on our dedicated NATS Airport Live page and the official BBC 2 Airport Live page.


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Keith. Peers

Steph was great. She is a pro.




You all make it look very easy, which obviously shows all that training pays off



JetStream Ground Services

Great job Steph!



Zakaria Janzi

Is it possible to contact any of these ATCs… I am really struggling with the application process and asking one of the ATCs like Steph would definitely help…


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