My aviation career began straight after completing my ‘A’ levels at school as an Engineering Cadet at the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA’s) College of Technical Engineering at (the then still somewhat secret) Bletchley Park.
Two intensive years later, my first posting was to the ‘Southern Area Maintenance Unit’ at Heston where I gained much experience working on remote Navigation Aids and also HM Coastguard communications systems around the south of the country. This experience and training was invaluable in helping me gain promotion and the posting to London City Airport six years later; an exciting new site which was billed as the very first commercial airport actually in London.
Four engineers in total were posted to London City, 50% of which are still here! My colleague Mike is the longest serving engineer as he started a week before me.
Fast forward three decades and I’ve been there with my SLR camera to experience most of the big milestones – from the Queen joining us at the official opening in 1987 to this year's exciting announcement of a digital tower coming in 2019!
Two ‘training heavy’ months after my first day, London City Airport officially opened to the public for the first time and we were honoured to welcome Queen Elizabeth for the occasion.
"Time flies when you're having fun..."
Airport engineers, like me, are responsible for making sure the technology our controllers rely on is in full working order to ensure a safe operation.
Everything from the screens and headsets the controllers use, through to NATS' national network of radar and radio stations, is managed and maintained by the engineering teams.
London City is no more complex than most other UK airports but is considerably more constrained because the equipment has to cater for a steep glideslope angle and is bordered by water on two sides. The Instrument Landing System (ILS) is at a 5.5° Glidepath angle (compared with the normal 3°) to reduce the effects of aircraft noise over the neighbouring residential areas.
The Airport sometimes has its own weather climate including banks of sea fog that can roll in off the Thames without warning. Special procedures also exist to cater for the effects of shipping on Air Traffic Operations!