Did you know that Friday 12 November is all about celebrating our ATSEP qualified colleagues?
The term “Air Traffic Safety Electronic Personnel” (ATSEP) has been developed to describe technical specialists working to support the technical ATM services.
And today, Friday 12 November, is International ATSEP day – which is all about recognising and celebrating our colleagues who help to keep our equipment operational and safe. We took time out to speak to colleagues from around our Technical Services team to find out more about ATSEP, what it means to them and how it affects our business.

Tristan Smith, Application Support Team Leader, is ATSEP certified in a number of ATSEP qualifications and talked about his and his teams ATSEP experience.

“I’ve been with our business for around three years now. I started in Technical Training, helping to deliver the ATSEP material to colleagues and customers across the globe” said Tristan.

“ATSEP is critical to the safety of our business. It’s important that the whole team understands this responsibility. When you have equipment that is operational, you need to have a certain level of knowledge, skills and behaviours – so that you understand the impact to the operational service. Every engineer that interacts with operational equipment needs that level of understanding.”

Becoming ATSEP qualified can be a long process, with the Basic course taking a number of weeks, followed by a Shared course and then any specialist courses which reflect the equipment that our engineers might work on. This is a pre-requisite for their specials asset training.

Tristan Smith, Application Support Team Leader at NATS

“Equipment courses can be a number of weeks or months” said Tristan. “You then might have six to twelve months doing On the Job Training competency work. It’s critical that I manage my team to ensure they have the right knowledge, skills and behaviours for keeping our operation safe and efficient.”

Over the last 18 months Tristan and his team have kept busy and used the opportunity to develop their skills. “We’ve seen the potential of lockdown and used that time to get our team ATSEP qualified, thanks to the agile workings of Training Technical Services. We also did other training to prepare ourselves for forthcoming responsibilities.”

“Engineers of all teams need to understand the importance of being competent – and the link to safety. Interacting with the operational equipment has a major impact on the business and on keeping the skies safe. If we don’t take the right precautions it can have serious impacts, and my team takes great care when carrying out operational taskings.” added Tristan.

ATSEP’s on our radar

Dave Barrett, Specialist Maintenance Engineer, has been with our business since 1999. Dave helps to maintain and repair our radars throughout the country. He’s been in the field for most of his career and recently became ATSEP qualified to help the team focus on electronic equipment.

“Every day is different” said Dave. “You never know what might happen. One day you might be doing some maintenance and the next you might be the other end of the country fixing a problem.”

Dave Barrett (left), Specialist Maintenance Engineer at NATS

Dave is also a qualified climber – and has rope access and rescue training accreditation to his name. “Sometimes that means abseiling down a mast to fix feeders or an antenna. We always climb in pairs and have rescue kits to hand” said Dave.

“That’s why the ATSEP qualification is key. It helps you focus on all of the things that are going on and the impact they have on safety – of our business, people and customers.”

“It changed the way I think – working closely with lots of other engineers, you have an appreciation for what people do and how it all fits together. ATSEP really cemented that. Safety is always number one – and this always drives that home. The training really helped to formalise the learning I already had in our business.”

Supporting our airports

Morgan Constantine, Airport Operational Engineer (DTO) at Heathrow, helps to keep the Heathrow ATC operation safe. He first joined our business in 2015 working in the Surveillance Outstations Team (RADAR), before moving roles to support the Heathrow Engineering team.

Morgan Constantine, Airport Operational Engineer at NATS Heathrow

“My first days in Surveillance gave me the Basic ATSEP Surveillance specific training – which helped to build my awareness of how things fit together in the Radar world” said Morgan. “And, as I moved into airports, I needed to expand my knowledge and as a requirement of the AUE (Airport Unit Endorsement) there’s a lot more equipment to maintain. The ATSEP courses gave me some real insight into how they all fit together and the affect they have on our Airport/ ATC Operation.”

“Working in an airport, you can really see how the job you do connects to safety and directly to the planes on the monitor and in the air. It’s right there in front of you – from looking out of the window and seeing them mid-flight to actually driving alongside planes as they take off and land. That connection really helps build your awareness of all of the different equipment and the impact it can have on our business. And that’s really the ethos behind ATSEP.”

ATSEP advice

We asked our engineers what advice they’d give people going through ATSEP training.

Morgan said; “It’s so important to have a passion for what you do. I’ve always had a love of fixing things and this really encouraged me to see how things work and how they influence the world around them. This was a real motivation as I went through the ATSEP training.”

Tristan said; “When you first start the training, there’s so much to do but it’s really important to recognise the context of the learning. You’re learning the systems and how it impacts the rest of our equipment. Also, do not underestimate the members of your team and their experience, as there’s a wealth of knowledge.”

Dave agrees, adding; “Everyone is keen to help others. There’s a lot of knowledge. For someone new ATSEP is a great fundamental start/building block.”


Thank you to all of our ATSEP engineers who took part in this interview and to all of our colleagues who work tirelessly to keep our equipment safe and operational.


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