Thursday, May 8, 2014

Working 9 to 5

For those of you who didn't already know, I spent 10 years in the Royal Air Force (RAF) as an Assistant Air Traffic Controller (AATC).  Those 10 years were amazing, I had so many opportunities to travel, meet fantastic people, drink lots and do things I'd never have dreamed of before.  I mostly loved my job, but looking back, some of the things we had to do in the line of work were pretty hilarious. 

On promotion to Corporal, I got to work in one of these:
The illustrious Runway Control Caravan

What the heck is that, I hear you say?  This my friends, is the Runway Control Caravan.  A big truck with a mobile control tower built in, a couple of pyrotechnic gun holes in the roof, communications, and of course a kettle so you could make a brew for yourself and the Bird Control people out and about on the airfield.  There was no loo in the Caravan, so if you had to go, it was outside on the grass, hopefully out of eyesight of the aircraft spotters usually in position around the airfield fence.  The US Air Force doesn't have these!  During flying, the van had to be parked on the side of the runway in use which meant a lot of driving this huge thing around then plugging and unplugging all the cables.  After night flying, you then had to pack up all the cables and tuck them in - mostly in the pitch dark.  Thank God The Walking Dead wasn't on in those days, it was scary enough as it was!! 

I also worked with these a lot:

LE58 portable runway lights

These big, heavy cumbersome things were the bane of our life.  When there was night flying going on, we had to line the entire runway with them so they would light the runway if the main lighting failed.  After flying was over, we had to go out in the pitch black and pick them all up again.  If it was warm weather, the lights would be covered in bugs and other nasties.  I HATED doing this job!!!!  They would sometimes leak acid too, so it wasn't a clean task.  The photo above is a recent one I took from google, the lights we worked with were OLD and not as pristine as these ones appear to be!

We also had to do a few stints at bird control.  To this day, I still can't believe I drove round an airfield playing tapes of birds in distress through a loud speaker to scare off birds from the airfield.  If there was a birdstrike on the runway, we would have to go out and scrape the remains off the runway, bag them up and take them for analysis.  Not a good job for a vegetarian!

We made and carried a lot of these:

More often than not, in mugs like these:

It wasn't uncommon to have to carry a tray of 10 cups of tea/coffee up the ladder-like stairs to local control.  Ha, can you imagine what Health and Safety would have to say about that nowadays?!

Another necessary evil in the world of ATC was the operation of this piece of equipment:

The Mu Meter

Another not so clean task, the 'lovely' mu meter had to be hitched to the back of the ATC landrover and driven up and down the runway when there was inclement weather to measure the friction.  Oh for fun!

So, I know a lot of people think of ATC people sitting on their butts or waving lollipops at planes, but there was a whole lot of other stuff going on behind the scenes back in my day.  Although I didn't really enjoy going around the airfield in the dark on my own, looking back, it was actually a lot of fun and pretty funny too really.  Now I'm going to go and sit on my sandbag and reminisce some more :) 

No comments:

Post a Comment