Ben graduated in 2007 with a BSc in Mathematics from the University of Portsmouth. He is currently an air traffic controller at National Air Traffic Services (NATS).
I heard about the job initially by word of mouth and then researched it using Prospects. I applied online and was offered the job at the beginning of my final year of university, so I deferred until September the following year so I could finish my degree.
On a typical day, I arrive at the unit with enough time to brief myself on any unusual activities and relevant information before the start of my shift. Typically, I work half an hour on, half an hour off, however during the summer I normally work for longer periods without a break (typically one hour).
We work in a team of three, with a tactical controller, planner controller and assistant. The tactical controlling involves speaking to about 15 aeroplanes at a time, ensuring they get through my sector as safely as possible, giving shortcuts when available to help reduce fuel burn. The planner controlling involves speaking to all the adjacent sectors, airfields and agencies, to ensure the aircraft enter the sector safely. Throughout the day I will work in both of these roles.
After finally qualifying, I am happy to work like this day to day, and I do not need to go for promotions, etc. However, I think in a couple of years I may become an instructor if the opportunity presents itself. I would quite like to get involved in airspace redevelopment projects too.
I love the shift work and flexibility. The job is well paid with plenty of annual leave. Job security is high, and it is always a challenge, so doesn't get boring. 90% of the time everything goes to plan, but for the other 10% it can be very challenging.
Various things can happen, such as poor weather, aircraft emergencies, etc, which all make the job very challenging. During times like these, absolute concentration is required to ensure nothing goes wrong.
The sectors I work (DVR/WOR) are very busy. We mainly work arrivals and departures to/from the London TMA. The people are great and there is a good team atmosphere.
I would suggest that you apply early like me and it will seriously reduce the stress of the final year at uni. Don't expect it to be an easy ride, it's the most stressful thing I've done (with my maths degree a close second) and requires 100% dedication and commitment for every day of your training (for me this took two and half years, which is relatively quick!).
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