Seven-year-old Charlie Yates today (Tues) became an air traffic controller.
Charlie donned his own named hi-vis gilet and headphones before taking his seat on the top deck of the Birmingham Airport (BHX) air traffic control tower to line up aircraft for take-off and landing.
The pint-sized aviation fanatic, from Walsall, West Midlands, loves nothing more than going to the end of the BHX runway to watch the planes when his parents, Kat and Darren, are able to take him.
Charlie’s other passion is caring for his father, who is housebound much of the time due to fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, arthritis, degenerative spine disease and a spinal cyst (syringomyelia). Darren leaves the house only with the aid of strong, controlled, opioid painkillers.
To thank Charlie for his ongoing care and kindness, Darren wrote to BHX asking if his son could have a behind-the-scenes tour as a Christmas surprise. Moved by the note, airport bosses took the rare step inviting Charlie and his parents in for a VIP visit.
Paul Beat, head of air navigation services for BHX, met Charlie in the company’s main office. He then pointed out the air traffic control tower on the other side of the airfield before handing Charlie his air traffic controller badge and driving over to the tower.
Charlie was shown the air traffic visual control room, the radar control room and the air traffic simulator used for training new and existing controllers.
Charlie said: “Today was brilliant. Best day ever. I want to be an air traffic controller now.”
Darren said: "I’m not sure Santa will be able to top this. I was overcome with emotion just seeing Charlie’s face. A truly magical day.”
Paul Beat added: “Seeing Charlie’s face light up was priceless. His excitement was infectious.”
Charlie was given a BHX new-starter pack including a notepad, pen and binoculars. He was also given model easyJet, Jet2 and Emirates aircraft as early Christmas presents.