A conversation with…
Airfield Duty Manager
What did you do prior to joining Birmingham Airport?
I used to be Manager of a Sainsbury’s store. I was managing people, health and safety issues and so on, but now instead of food it’s aeroplanes. A bit of a change I know! I’ve been here about 18 months.
What attracted you to the role?
I have my private pilot licence, so I have always wanted to work at an airport. I didn’t really know what to expect because you just don’t know what goes on behind the scenes.
Tell us about your training?
It was quite a steep learning curve because it was all completely new. I spent 6 weeks with my line manager going through everything that I would be responsible for, including all the detailed airport procedures. Then I spent time with the guys who now work for me; I did wildlife control, runway inspections, I needed to see how it all worked. Then I spent about two months shadowing someone who was already doing the job, so I could see how the role worked in practice.
It sounds pretty thorough?
It needed to be. I work shifts, so on a weekend or in the middle of the night I am the point of contact for airfield emergencies. I’m in charge of the airfield safety so I needed to know everything before they let me loose on my own at 3 o’clock in the morning!
So what are your key responsibilities day to day?
I’m responsible for all aspects of safety on the airfield on a day to day basis. Basically I’m the point of call for anything that either goes wrong or needs looking after on the airfield. I manage a team of people who do all the runway inspections, all the wildlife management; we police the ramp area to make sure all the handling agents are carrying out all their duties correctly; I also look after apron control, they manage stand allocations for the aircraft.
It’s very varied. If an emergency is coming in, I coordinate our response. I investigate any incidents or accidents that occur on the ramp; so for example, if a handling agent drives a set of steps into an aeroplane, I would deal with it. I deal with crane applications; if someone wants to put up a crane within 6 km of the airport that comes through me too. So I get called to all deal with all sorts of things, any aspect of safety on the airfield.
So what do you like best about your job?
I love working at the airport, I absolutely love my job. I love the fact that it’s so varied, I love being out there. I’d hate to have a job stuck at a desk all day, that’s not me at all. I like the fact that I manage my own time, although obviously I have to react to whatever is happening, whenever it happens. I do like that the fact that one minute I can be thinking it’s all going swimmingly well, then the next minute there is something unexpected to deal with.
And what skills are the most useful?
I think that the fact that I can work with all different kinds of people is very important in this role.
I have quite strong people skills; I’m able to work with anyone and everyone. I interact with handling agents, my own staff, pilots, aircrew, air traffic control, so a wide variety of people.
Also the fact that I can make quick decisions and solve problems is useful; knowing who to contact, deciding that ‘this is what we need to do to sort this out’, and coordinating our response.
Are there opportunities to develop your career?
Yes, there are obviously levels above me. But I’m happy with what I am doing at the moment! All the levels above me are Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 roles and that does not suit me. I work shifts, which I like a lot!
What would you say to someone thinking about joining BHX?
Go for it, it’s a great place to work! I just can’t believe how much better suited I am to this job than my previous job, and I did that for 7 years! You really don’t know what you are good at until you try something else.