I’ve worked at NATS for 22 years now and have been an Air Traffic Controller for 19 of them! I trained for the first 3 years. I think in essence I’m still the same person that started all those years ago, and I still have the same passion for the job today as I did when I first “plugged in”.
I didn’t always want to be an Air Traffic Controller though. It wasn’t even something I’d thought about. It was suggested to me by my then boyfriend, who is now my husband. I was just coming to the end of University and I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. He mentioned to me he thought it would be something I’d enjoy, because I’m pretty logical, calm under pressure and love a challenge! So I applied, completed all the tests, had the interview and before I knew it had been offered a place in the Training College. Now here I am 22 years later, and I absolutely love it.
So what sort of person makes a good Air Traffic Controller? Well there’s no one simple answer for that. For me though, I’d say you’ve got to have a certain amount of self-confidence and self-reliance to do this job. You’ve also got to like learning new things as you have to learn new procedures and equipment as they come into operation.
I think the atmosphere in the ops room is relatively relaxed – it’s not as stressful as people imagine although it is pressured at times! Whilst we are serious when we are working, I’ve made some great friends in my time at NATS and we have a lot of fun outside of work. In fact I would generally say that there is a great camaraderie inside and outside of the ops room.
I’m really proud of the sheer volume of air traffic that we move safely without any problems on a day to day basis. I’m also really proud of the way we react and pull together when there is a challenging issue to manage – such as dealing with flights in bad weather. Teamwork is key in this job, you’ve got to be able to work in a team here.
One of my best memories at NATS was when I worked the last commercial Concorde to leave Heathrow to go to New York before it flew back again for the final entry. That was a very poignant moment for me, because I’ve always loved Concorde since I was a little girl, so to be able to talk to the pilots was amazing and I was really sad when it finished flying.
When people ask me what I like about this job, I tell them that I love that I get to work with great people, help people get where they need to go, and that I play a part in keeping the country running without most people even knowing about it!
I’m really proud to say that I’m an Air Traffic Controller. Considering it wasn’t something I had even thought of doing as a career, I feel very lucky to have found it. Now, for me, I couldn’t imagine working anywhere else. It is definitely a career I’d recommend to anyone looking for an exciting, enjoyable and rewarding career.
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