It can take three or four years for someone to become a fully-fledged air traffic controller, but for each person who makes it many others won’t have made the grade.
Air traffic controllers can be responsible for the safety of thousands of people every day, so finding people with the ‘right stuff’ and training them well enough to do the job is vitally important.
But what is it that enables someone to go from the street to managing aircraft at somewhere like Glasgow, Stansted or Swanwick? We asked Lee McGregor and Steve Blanchard, two of the people whose job it is to nurture the next generation of controllers through the first stages of training, what five qualities every controller needs to have.
1. Creativity – not in the sense of being an artist, but no two days are ever the same so you need to be able to see creative solutions to whatever situation is in front of you.
2. Resilience – this is an absolutely fantastic job, but the training to get there is tough. Every trainee, even the very best, will go through difficult times but it’s about how you respond to that which counts.
3. A can do attitude – unlike a video game there is no pause button in air traffic control, so whatever you’re faced with you need to help secure a positive outcome with the help of your friends and colleagues.
4. A team player – this might seem odd, but actually air traffic control is all about working in a team with your fellow controllers as well as the pilots, ground crews and engineers. Aircraft pass from controller to controller much like a baton in a relay race and you will always want to pass over the best possible traffic situation to your colleagues.
5. A hard worker – make no mistake training to be a controller is hard work, with each trainee expected to put in the hours. Some of the assessments require trainees to have verbatim knowledge of processes and procedures, so there is no shortcut to putting in the time.
You can see Lee and Steve going through the highs and lows of working with a class of brand new trainee controllers in tonight’s episode of Skies Above Britain on BBC Two at 8pm.
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