Craig Allan, Air Traffic Control Officer, Wick John O’Groats
How long have you been in your current role?
I started my training in college in August 2016, unit training in May 2017 and validated in October 2017.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do when I was at school, but I knew it was going to be in aviation. I thought about becoming a pilot but the costs of doing so prohibited that. I’ve always had an interest in air traffic though. I did maths, English and physics all at Standard Grade level. I did 6 years in the RAF as a flight operations assistant. This gave me a good grounding in aviation and when the job of Ab Initio ATCO came up, I knew it was the job for me. As yet, I’m not sure how I see my future career progressing as I’m still fairly new. However, with the ATM project on going, the possibility for extra ratings and endorsements is looking likely.
Photo taken by Craig
What are your main responsibilities in your current role?
The job of an ATCO is to provide a safe, orderly and expeditious flow of air traffic. As a combined procedural and tower controller, you are the only ATCO controlling on your unit at any one time. You are responsible for aircraft from anywhere out to 40 miles away, all the way to their parking position at the terminal and for any aircraft that are transiting in the vicinity of the airfield.
Are there any particular challenges?
Being a procedural unit with no assistant means you work alone for the majority of the time. So when it gets busy, it’s really busy! From the moment you’re validated, you’re expected to work alone and make important decisions.
What do you love about your job at HIAL…
Every day is different. The traffic is never the same twice!
The only downside is…
Sometimes, especially in winter, it can be quite quiet. However after the busy summer months this can be a welcome respite!
What would you say to someone who wanted to work in your role?
Expose yourself to as much of aviation as you can. Go to a flying school and do some air experience flying, request a visit to the unit you want to work at and as many other ones as possible. Air traffic control is a specialised job, so the more of it you can see before you start, the better.
How do you spend your time outside of work?
I have a share in a Cessna 150 based at the airport, so when the weather is nice I like to go flying round the Highlands and Islands.
What are your recommendations for someone visiting Wick or the area?
- Explore the Caithness coastline
- Go to Duncansby Head in Spring/early summer and see the puffins
- Visit Orkney
- Go flying
- Wetherspoons in Wick
Photo taken by Craig