Ever since I can remember I’ve been interested in aviation. I originally had plans to become a pilot, but after studying for a degree in Aeronautical Engineering at the University of Southampton I looked into NATS and Air Traffic Control and was instantly interested.
From the very beginning I’d hoped to end up working in Terminal Control (TC) at the Control Centre in Swanwick, Hampshire. TC looks after some of the busiest and most complex airspace in the world and being someone who really likes a challenge, there was no question that was where I wanted to be.
A typical day starts with a briefing on any important things that might affect my shift, things like airspace closures, non-standard flights, temporary airspace or runway and approach aid availability, and then I enter the Ops Room ready to take-over from the preceding watch.
Approach for the five main London airports is managed from Swanwick, and I work on Heathrow Approach. We have up to five possible positions that can be opened concurrently depending on traffic levels and I spend my shift working a variety of these positions. Once I’ve worked for a maximum of one and half hours I’m required to take a break.
Heathrow Approach is divided into two main parts – the Intermediate Director and the Final Director. The Intermediate Directors work the aircraft in the holds and bring them off at an appropriate time to keep a constant feed to the Final Director, who then turns the aircraft onto Final Approach and finesses the spacing between them to achieve the best landing rate.
While it can be quite a relaxed working environment, a shift can get very interesting when you throw in things like adverse weather, emergency aircraft, runway closures or low visibility procedures!
There are so many things I love about this role; for me shift working works really well, no two days are the same and I never know what the next one might bring. Being part of such a skilled and dedicated team is also a real privilege, we’re all very passionate about the work we’re doing and you can really feel that every time you enter the Ops room.
I’ve recently qualified as an instructor. When I progressed through the college during my training lots of different instructors impart their knowledge, and I remember thinking at the time that I would really like to come back and do that one day. The training can be challenging at times, and so I like the idea of being able to help someone through it. I think the process of watching a trainee grow and progress from when they make their first transmission to an aircraft, right the way through to the time when they pass their board and start controlling on their own, is going to be very rewarding.
Hear Michael talk about being an Air Traffic Controller, in his #OurAmazingEveryday video below.
Were currently recruiting for people to train up as Air Traffic Controllers. If you think you might be interested in pursuing a career like Mike’s, check out http://nats.aero/careers
Michael is one of several NATS employees that features in the #OurAmazingEveryday video. Find out more about what it’s like working for NATS and helping to keep the skies safe by watching the video below:
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