Abdulla Rashed Al Rashdi has been an air-traffic controller for the past 23 years. He is a senior supervisor at Abu Dhabi International Airport and speaks about a typical day directing traffic.
I get up.
The first thing I do is the handover. (The previous supervisor) briefs me.
I make the daily reports and the roster. I have eight to nine controllers. I cannot let the controller work more than two-and-a-half hours because of stress. You have a medical check every year, so you have to be fit - no diabetics and no high blood pressure.
I plug in. I am a manager, but I have to work. Otherwise, I would lose my touch. From the time I run the shift, Abu Dhabi airspace is mine. If anything flies it's with my permission. Sometimes pilots you are dealing with don't communicate in good English, so you have to be careful. And you have to be sharp. We selected three (people to train to be controllers) out of 800 candidates.
Someone else relieves me and I take a break. I leave the operation room. You have to pull yourself out.
I come back to the office and make my daily report for the handover and there is an operations report.
I don't eat (at my desk). It's not allowed in case you spill water on the system. But you get used to it. Every day I have different issues to deal with. About two months ago … when the west-bound European flights were coming, a guy declared an emergency. He had a problem with the hydraulics. So I opened the north runway. In our job you have to take a decision within five seconds. I have to have a plan B and plan C. If the pilot is declaring an emergency he is panicking, so I have to be calm to remove his fear. The more you do it, the more experience you have, the easier it is (to deal with the stress). But if I get stressed I call my family and speak to them.
I make the report for the handover. I check … if there is a VVIP (very very important person) movement, like a presidential flight. We have procedures. We shut down the airspace. I brief the next supervisor.
I have a hot bath when I get home. It helps me relax. I like to see my kids.
I like to swim.
I spend time with my family.
I have a hot shower, hot drink and go to bed.
* Gillian Duncan