Jobs in travel

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VIEWS OF WEST LON­DON. Perched 87 me­tres up above Heathrow Air­port in the con­trol tower, he has a per­fect 360-de­gree vista, from skyscrap­ers in the east to Wind­sor Cas­tle in the west.

A se­nior air traf­fic con­trol of­fi­cer (ATCO), Ady over­sees the world's busiest tworun­way air­port. Ev­ery day, he and his col­leagues pre­side over around 1,350 aero­planes land­ing or tak­ing off.

Ady and ten or so staff sit in­side the tower, sur­rounded by glass win­dows. Each ATCO has around half a dozen screens to mon­i­tor, as well as the run­ways and sky.

With a healthy salary (se­nior con­trollers can earn north of £100,000), it’s no sur­prise that there are 6,000 ap­pli­ca­tions for jobs ev­ery year. Skills re­quired in­clude spa­tial rea­son­ing, team­work and quick de­ci­sions un­der pres­sure. Suc­cess­ful ap­pli­cants come from all walks of life. “It’s a job you ei­ther can or can’t do,” says Ady.

Dur­ing Ady’s 18-year watch, there has never been a fa­tal ac­ci­dent at Heathrow. The near­est miss was in 2008 when a Boe­ing 777 suf­fered an en­gine fail­ure and landed short of the run­way. The ATCO pre­sid­ing over that flight was given an award by the Royal Aero­nau­ti­cal So­ci­ety.

Even dur­ing in­ci­dents like this, the ATCOs re­main cool, calm and col­lected. Is there noth­ing at all that fazes them?

“The things that stress me out are the ev­ery­day de­ci­sions at home,” says Ady. “Sim­ple things like, ‘What shall we have for din­ner?‘ That’s what I strug­gle with.”

Ady Dolan, air traf­fic con­trol of­fi­cer

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