Airfield operations

Essential for keeping the airport's runway and airfield operating 24/7

Who are we?

Airfield Operations manages all aircraft and other vehicle movements on the airfield. Our remit also includes runway lighting and control, and making sure that all health, safety and aviation requirements are met. The airport's fire service is also part of the airfield team. 

Safety and compliance is a vital part of this job

How do we work?

Airfield Operations teams work around the clock to keep the airfield operating efficiently, safely and in compliance with regulations. The airside management team consists of the Airside Operations Manager, Airside Control Lead and Airside Flow Lead – who all work together to keep the airport safe and operational. 

Teams are trained to the highest standards, using modern training techniques to deal with aircraft emergencies, road traffic accidents, medical emergencies and more.

As part of our role, we liaise with ground handlers and service providers, making sure that Gatwick maintains its standards and obligations in line with Civil Aviation Authority requirements.

Why Gatwick?

Gatwick Airport is the world's busiest single runway operation, so we need to be alert and ready to tackle any problem that may arise.

Whether dealing with an aircraft emergency, medical response, a chemical spill, wildlife dispersal, volcanic ash, ice, snow or even calling in bee keepers, they’re always thinking on their feet.

Meet Hayley Richardson, Airfield Operations Controller

Did you know it takes just four minutes to inspect Gatwick’s runway? But when you have to complete it in 15 to 30-second bursts to fit in around aircraft taking off and landing, it’s a different matter. 

Hayley is Airfield Operations Controller and she admits that she still gets a buzz every time she steps on to the runway. One moment she can be carrying out wildlife inspections and the next she will have spotted, or been directed to, a piece of debris on the runway and have an instant decision to make. “It’s up to an airfield operations controller to decide whether services can still run or we have to stop and declare the runway unavailable,” said Hayley. “Sometimes it’s just something small that we can remove immediately without interrupting the runway operation, but issues such as large pieces of debris or damage to the runway itself then it means everything must stop.”

Hayley still remembers back to July 2017 when the tyre of an aircraft burst on take-off. “We immediately did a massive sweep before the plane came back into land. However, the landing caused damage to the surface of the runway and we were forced to close it and continue operations on our standby runway, while repairs took place. After the work was complete, Hayley and the team had to carry out a mandatory inspection to ensure it was clear and safe to re-open.

“Safety and compliance is a vital part of this job and although it adds extra time and inevitably disruption to our operations, we cannot re-open a runway without carrying out the proper checks. Our runway is our most important asset and it’s my responsibility to make it safe to use – that’s something I take very seriously,” she said.