National Women in Engineering Day (NWED) was set up to raise the profile and celebrate the achievements of women in engineering.
Our blog series “women in engineering” has featured several of our female engineers over the last year. Today, for NWED, we look at another of our female engineers, Fiona McCluskey, NATS’ Duty Engineering Officer (DEO) based at Aberdeen Airport.
I have been a Duty Engineering Officer (DEO) at Aberdeen Airport for the last ten years as part of a team of seven engineers, working shifts to provide engineering cover between 6.00 a.m. and 10.30 p.m., seven days a week.
Apart from the airport function, Aberdeen is also the largest heliport in the world servicing the North Sea oil industry. We carry out corrective and preventative maintenance on a wide range of equipment in the control tower’s building, on the airfield and also at remote sites.
As the DEO at Aberdeen, I am responsible for keeping the equipment online to ensure the airport stays operational, this responsibility keeps me on my toes. When something does stop working I see the task of fault-finding and repair as my personal responsibility, it keeps my brain active and I also enjoy the challenge.
Aberdeen provides an Air Traffic control service for the North Sea from the Brent sector in the north down to East Anglia. To achieve this we receive data from seven different radars and we also have 16 offshore sites which feed into our systems to provide radar cover over the North Sea. In addition, we have equipment offshore to provide area coverage for the Brent Sector, Sumburgh, West of Shetland, Northern North Sea and Anglia. All this information is fed into our equipment room, processed and then fed to the various air traffic control positions in the tower. There is plenty to keep us busy!
After leaving school, I worked for British Telecom for a few years, but itchy feet saw me apply for an engineering role in the Royal Air Force , as the thought of being involved in fault finding and repair appealed to me and I desired a challenge.
While serving with the RAF I regularly visited the NATS site at Windyhead, Aberdeenshire, as we had equipment on the site. This gave me an opportunity to talk to the engineers, some of whom are now my work colleagues. I discovered that their roles were different and more interesting than my engineering role with the RAF. When an opportunity to apply for a post with NATS came up I jumped at it. I stayed at Windyhead for six years until a vacancy came up at Aberdeen Airport, which gave me an opportunity to change direction and develop my career further whilst staying with NATS.
I have now worked for NATS for 16 years, all in the north east of Scotland. This has suited my personal circumstances as a married mother of two and has also fulfilled my desire to work with an internationally respected company with a good employment record.
I enjoy working at Aberdeen and hope to remain there for the next few years as I work within a great team where we all support each other.
NATS has provided me with advancement opportunities during my time with them and I also receive continual training as well as training on new equipment, which has included travel to the USA and Europe, where we work with equipment suppliers to make sure our skills base is be set to the highest standards.
People are often surprised when they meet a female engineer, which I find strange. I may be one of a few in this role but within NATS I am treated as just one of the team. I would like to see more women in such roles although I think this will not happen in the short term unless we take the opportunity to use days such as National Women in Engineering to highlight what the job entails and that it is accessible to both genders.
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