Jason shares his advice on how to become an Air Traffic Controller and moving from Moreton to the Middle East.
When did you attend CCS?
From 1981-1986, I joined in the third year when we moved from Edinburgh to Moreton in the Marsh.
You now work in Qatar, what’s your current job?
I’m an Air Traffic Controller at Hamad International Airport, Qatar's main international airport.
Did you always know you wanted to work overseas?
No, previously I had not been so adventurous. Around 2009 a colleague told me he was moving to Qatar. I asked, 'Where?' Additionally, I thought I was too old for such a change. A couple of years later there were more vacancies in Qatar and after a LOT of thinking I decided to apply. One of the best decisions I ever made, wish I had made it sooner.
What was your career path, how did you become an Air Traffic Controller?
I remember always being interested in aviation. When we lived in Edinburgh, I would cycle out to the airport to watch the aircrafts. While at CCS I passed the exams to gain a Private Pilot's Licence. I studied Aeronautical Engineering at London University and whilst there my application to become a pilot with British Airways was unsuccessful. Shortly after, there was a job advert for Air Traffic Controllers with the Civil Aviation Authority. After eighteen months of training, I was doing a hugely enjoyable and rewarding job.
What's it like living in Qatar, how long have you been there and how have you adjusted to the pandemic?
Qatar is a great place to live. Nearly every day is hot, sunny and blue sky. While in the UK people may feel stuck indoors because of the cold, damp weather, here it can be the high temperatures (50'C) in the middle of Summer that keep some people indoors.
I’ve been here almost nine years; some things have changed. Many roundabouts have been replaced with lighted signals, improving road safety. There’s also been a huge amount of construction both roads and buildings. Thankfully, Qatar has so far managed to retain its charm and feels very different to bigger cities such as Dubai. Most home comforts are available, but sometimes at hugely inflated prices.
Qatar has only about 3 million inhabitants, foreign workers account for around 85% of the population. A broad demographic produces many opportunities to experience diverse cultures. The kids choose cheese and fresh green chili paratha/chapati wraps over a bag of crisps every time, the wraps are cheaper too!
Qatar is a very traditional Muslim country. Locals are friendly and helpful. They expect expats to respect cultural and religious norms and to dress conservatively and act accordingly in public places. At home and, at the numerous hotels, more western behaviours are acceptable.
The pandemic has changed things for us. Home schooling has been particularly stressful. The requirement to quarantine on arrival and/or return has curbed our travelling. We previously enjoyed long weekends in the Maldives, only a five-hour flight away. We also haven't been able to host family visits for almost a year and Zoom just isn't the same.
Many recreational and entertainment facilities, including parks, have now reopened. It was difficult in the beginning but, except for travel, life is almost back to normal.
What does your work involve?
The best part of the job, every day is different. Although airline schedules change a little, everyday life such as weather, technical and passenger issues have an impact on how the aircraft traffic situation develops. Consequently, the best way to sequence the aircraft is to achieve a safe, orderly and expeditious flow of aircraft changes. Safety comes first, with the obvious pressure to keep everyone out of danger. There are also increasing commercial pressures - airlines want delays kept to a minimum to avoid extra costs. I just focus on doing a good job, which takes care of the other pressures.
We have to ask, what was your favourite subject at School?
It was Maths. Miss Pratley made it a real joy. I liked it so much I went on to get a PGCE in Mathematics!
Any advice to students/alumni interested in your career?
Those interested in becoming an ATCO should try to organise a visit to the Air Traffic Control Unit at their local airport. There are now many routes to ATCO. Some of those I work with were previously a driving instructor, an accountant and a builder. A degree is not essential, but in many cases some formal education beyond age 16 may be a requirement. One of the few ATC training facilities in the UK is at Gloucestershire airport. The best thing about the job is not being able to take your work home.
What are your memories of school days?
My memories of CCS are quite mixed. There were some difficulties fitting in at school and adjusting to a rural environment. I remember it was difficult to pursue some interests, but also wish I had made more effort to enjoy and challenge myself with the available opportunities.
Messge from the Development office:
Sadly, Miss Pratley passed away in 2016. She was a much-loved teacher and had a significant impact on the lives of many CCS students. If you have fond memories of Miss Prately, any other teachers from the 80's or 90's please use the comment box below. Thank you.
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