Unlikely Managers

Adrian Dolan, air traffic controller, National Air Traffic Services, Heathrow airport

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

When did you become a manager?

Three years ago. There are 12 of us on a watch and we rotate the jobs of arrivals, departures and ground control.

What does management mean to you?

It means managing the pilots to ensure that they are operating safely.

People have this misconception that pilots are in command, when they're following our instructions. English is the language of the skies, which is another difficulty - I'd rather speak to Air Ghana than Air France because their English is rubbish. Prioritising is very important, it's like plate-spinning. You need to listen to a pilot with one ear and your colleague with the other, and retain spare capacity for when something drastic happens. I once saw smoke belching from a tug that was towing Concorde. I pushed the big red crash button. I had to listen to four emergency services and the other pilots waiting to taxi simultaneously. You need to stay very calm under pressure.

What do you love/hate about it?

The best thing is the team I'm with. I hate difficult pilots.

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