Pilot Careers Live exhibitor Buckinghamshire New University spoke to India Gibson, Operational ATSA and Investigator at NATS, Stansted Control Tower. India studied Aviation Management at Bucks New University.
How did you get into aviation?
I have always been fascinated with anything and everything to do with aviation especially given the industry’s ever-changing, dynamic and unique characteristics! Coming from a family of Aviators where my mother operated as long-haul Cabin Crew for British Airways Worldwide (previous airlines include; Loganair, Orion, Britannia) and my father as a Captain who is also a TRE/TRI (Type Rating Examiner and Instructor), it is no surprise that I too decided to begin my own career in this diverse industry. I guess you could say aviation runs in my blood however I have always lived by the motto; “I’d rather say why not? Rather than I cannot” and I believe this motto has enabled me to continue to strive in my career to ‘break the glass ceiling’ as a female operating in a male dominated industry.
Tell us about your job…
My role at NATS is an Operational ATSA (Air Traffic Services Assistant) and, most recently, an Investigator! As with any role within the aviation industry, safety has to be the number one priority and that is exactly why we put safety at the heart of everything we do. Whilst striving to ensure all of our processes, procedures, manuals and policies are effective, efficient and safe, I can be seen undertaking a whole host of responsibilities within the Tower environment. These can vary from delivering a safe, effective and expeditious ATC (Air Traffic Control) support service in the VCR (Visual Control Room – the Tower!), promulgating meteorology reports for the ATCOs (Air Traffic Controllers), working on operational contingency plans in the event that the main Tower needs to be evacuated, drafting amendments to existing and new ATC procedures in conjunction with ATC Subject Matter Experts, interpreting and impact assessing legislative changes in conjunction with Airports HQ ATC Operations and probably one of the most fun things to do, facilitate Simulator input (acting as the Pilots (aircraft and helicopters), Rangers, Tug drivers) to assist with training days for the ATCOs or re-validation of licenses for ATCOs.
On top of these aspects, my role as an Investigator sees me look into the who? where? when? what? and why? an event happened. These can vary from the re-occurring events to the ones where life and death are closer than ever. It is truly a captivating aspect of my role which I love and one that has enabled me to expand my knowledge beyond what I know already.
What’s the best part about your job as an Operational ATSA / Investigator and previously as an Onboard Cabin Crew Manager?
The best part of my role has to be the view from the VCR – you can see for miles! On a good day you can see many London Landmarks which is always a treat. I have always loved the aviation industry for its ‘no two days are the same’ mannerism and this is something I experienced in full force in my previous role as an Onboard Cabin Crew Manager for a short-haul UK Holiday Airline. The variety, diversity and culture I encountered on a daily basis whilst dealing and managing risk at 38,000ft was incredible.
What is your training like and how did you find this experience?
For my role with NATS, my training is a blend of ‘on the job’ and specialised training courses such as Risk Assessor and Investigator Training. So this means I am getting the exposure to as many aspects of the role as possible whilst on the go. This includes getting to know and interacting with members of the Airport Team, Stansted Operators (both commercial and private jet), Ground Handling agents, Safety Teams, NATS central Teams as well. In all honesty, this style works well for me as it is something I am used too and I actually enjoy the challenge of having multiple things on the go at once! There’s no doubt it can be hectic, but nothing that’s unachievable!
I work within a small team as there’s only five people who are ATSA’s at Stansted so we blend together and learn from each other’s experience and backgrounds. Some of the team members have direct aviation experience i.e. flying commercially and/or military, whereas others have just started in the industry with no prior experience of aviation at all. It’s a real mix but it works well.
How did the pandemic affect your jobs?
Pre-pandemic, I was operating in my previous role as an Onboard Cabin Crew Manager. After having long periods of furlough from April 2020, I made the decision in October 2020 to resign (big decision to make given the global situation) so rather than waiting each month for my roster to show more standby duties, I thought I would take this opportunity to develop and better myself through my one-year, accelerated, distance-learning Degree studies at Buckinghamshire New University; BSc (Hons) Aviation Management for Professionals. This was one of those decisions that I have never looked back on and feel very lucky that I was in a position to enable me to do this. I am a firm believer that by proactively utilising the time throughout the Global Pandemic, I was able to get ‘ahead of the covid curve’ and come out the other side ready to embrace what would become our ‘new normal’ post-covid 19. Following completion of my Degree studies, I applied for the role of Operational ATSA at NATS in July 2021 and this is where I am today!
What advice would you give women looking to get involved in the Air Traffic Control / Cabin Crew environment?
Give it a go and don’t be afraid! You’ll never know unless you put yourself forward and apply for that dream role you want. It is clear that airlines / employers are now starting to pick up their operations post-pandemic which is a positive sign and with that will come new job opportunities. This, I believe, will bring about a new generation of aviators who are keen to re-vamp, update and generate new changes within the industry which, I for one am certainly looking forward to!
I would also say to anyone aspiring to work within aviation, utilise your skills set and demonstrate to your prospective employer what you can offer and bring to them! Remember you are unique and all have something special to bring!
Perhaps this brilliant quote sums up my aviation journey and hopefully yours too….“There comes a moment in everyone’s life when you stop wondering and begin to believe.” As always, if you’d like to reach out to me for either a quick chat or more in-depth discussions about everything and anything to do with aviation, please connect with me on LinkedIn: India Gibson (BSc Hons) | LinkedIn
Good luck and go for it!