Airfield controller

Meet Lee, airfield controller

Airfield controllerWhat did you do before this job? I have worked at Gatwick for six years. I started as a baggage handler working for Servisair gaining experience on airside operations and ramp safety. I used this experience to help me get a job in Airfield Operations.  I started within this department as a supportive team operative, which involves driving snow ploughs and large stand cleaning vehicles. I was then promoted into my current job as an airfield controller, and I am now responsible to ensure the airfield is a safe environment for passengers and the staff who work here.

What do you like best about your job? We have a daily plan of duties, but we also respond to any emergencies or incidents on the airfield, so we have to use our problem solving skills, whether that be closing a taxiway for emergency repairs, marshalling an aircraft that may have become stranded on the airfield or investigating an accident. The job can be very exciting, especially when completing our mandatory runway inspections, which we do between arriving and departing aircraft movements (we are the busiest international single runway in the world, so it can get very very busy!).  

Do you get much training? To become an airfield controller you have to complete six weeks of classroom training which covers a wide range of topics such as airfield inspections, emergency orders, runway surface friction, bird hazard management and regulatory framework. Finally we have to complete a three hour written examination and an interview assessment. As well as classroom training, we undergo practical training such as aircraft marshalling and fire arms training. Each of these competences are retested on a yearly basis.

Is there a typical day for you? Everyday is different in airfield operations. In addition to the mandatory tasks such as runway inspections and turnaround audits, we could be called to attend a huge variety of incidents from a bird strike on the runway to a fuel spillage on a stand (I have even responded to a loose dog on the airfield!). Our department’s primary role is to ensure safety on the airfield. We therefore educate people on airside safety and best practice. It can be a challenge ensuring safe practice is being continuously observed in such a busy and ever changing environment.

What would you say to someone thinking about joining Gatwick? Gatwick is a great place to work because it is always changing and striving to improve the customer experience. With past developments such as the Pier 3 Satellite and Pier 6 Bridge, Gatwick has always been at the forefront of airfield design and finds innovative solutions to solve problem. Under new management and with more investment proposed this strategy will continue to grow.