I served in the Royal Air Force for around 7 years prior to joining NATS.  Although Air Traffic Control was a career that I always wanted to get into, I assumed that I’d need to be super qualified, so I never explored it any further. 

When I finally decided that I needed a new challenge in life, my attention drew back to ATC, and luckily by now the internet was readily available so I was able to carry-out some research.  Realising the career was accessible I submitted my application and my first round of assessments were booked without hesitation.  

The day that I received the phone call to inform me that I was successful in gaining a place as a trainee controller will stay with me for a long time. It was the day that my life changed direction, and I was able to start on a new path.

Ian controlling at Manchester

The training was tough, but really rewarding.  Some of my closest friends were fellow students at the college; we had a great time learning about our new careers and supporting each other through the process.  

My initial posting was to Cardiff, a city I hadn’t visited before.  I moved on my own as my partner was completing her teacher training up in Aberdeen at the time.  I was made to feel very welcome, and received a great deal of assistance with my operational training.  I really enjoyed my time at Cardiff; however domestic pressure required me to move to Aberdeen.   

 I was fortunate that there was an opening at Aberdeen and I was able to move without too much delay.  Aberdeen has a fantastic operation, integrating offshore helicopters with regular fixed wing aircraft; it was a real buzz working there.  Due to my experience at Cardiff, I was able to successfully negotiate a Deputy Watch Manager interview after only around 12 months at Aberdeen and this first taste of operational management really gave me a desire to progress within NATS. 

My first opportunity to progress came when a Watch Manager position became open at Manchester.  Manchester is a city that I hold very dear and also the home of my team, Man City, so without any hesitation I applied and was ultimately successful in attaining the post. 

NATS Manchester tower

As you expect, being an Air Traffic Controller isn’t easy to describe as no two days are alike.  You get a great deal of pride and a sense of achievement when you control aircraft on a really busy day, or during an unusual event or emergency.   

Teamwork is absolutely key in this job as we rely on each other to make the operation work, and when I say each other, I don’t just mean other air traffic controllers.  We also have Engineers and Operational Support Staff playing their part to keep the skies moving.  

As the MATC (Manager ATC) I still retain a validation as a controller, meaning that I am still part of the operation team, however I am also responsible for the oversight of the manpower rostering, the operation instructions that controller use, liaising with our customers, the Airport owners,  and also for any incident investigation that might be taking place. 

I wouldn’t, and don’t, hesitate in recommending ATC as a career choice when people ask, it’s a great job that challenges you every day.  

Hear Ian talk about being an Air Traffic Controller, in his #OurAmazingEveryday video below. 

We’re recruiting… 

We’re currently recruiting for people to train up as Air Traffic Controllers. If you think you might be interested in pursuing a career like Ian, check out http://nats.aero/careers 


Ian 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: 

#OurAmazingEveryday from NATS on Vimeo. 


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Chris N

How many takes did it take without someone trying to use one of the computers? Great video and article Ian!!!



kabagambe Derick

Inspirational story indeed – I love it!


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