Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Bengaluru: They always ensure your flights are smooth and safe

When you, like millions of other passengers, checked into or exited from Kempegowda International Airport in Bengaluru, you perhaps never appreciated the fact that there are thousands of people hard at work, making your journey even possible.

Pushpa Pandey, deputy general manager, airside operations, Bangalore International Airport Limited; Usha Ganesh, deputy general manager, air traffic management, AAI, and Bharti Kalappa, senior maintenance manager, BIAL, are among the staff ensuring safe and seamless operations.

Pushpa conducts daily inspections of the airfield to ensure it complies with various standards, regulations and safety requirements. She says: “My experience as an air traffic control officer in the Indian Navy gave me tremendous confidence to take on any challenge. Also, the physical training and sailing on rough oceans made me disciplined and mentally strong to handle any complexity with ease and patience.”

Usha’s work demands intense concentration, aptitude and decision-making capabilities. As an air traffic controller for over 30 years, she handles multiple flights at the same time. This means checking a lot of data on screens as well as communicating with and guiding pilots, who call them “their eyes and ears”.
“This is one job where it’s OK to be a perfectionist, you owe it to the flying public,” she says. “ATCOs [air traffic control officers] have to constantly and intently listen to every word said by pilots and other controllers. They need to master the flow of communication and maintain awareness of air traffic and other controllers.” Her motto: it’s teamwork and it’s important to seek help and generously help. Dealing with bad weather is one of the most difficult things for a controller as it affects flight movement. More complex the weather, the higher the workload. “Bad weather means a terrible day for an ATCO,” she says.

Another worrisome factor is rotating shifts, including night shifts, which affect health, appetite and sleep cycles. “Good food habits, regular exercise, yoga, meditation and trekking are very useful and help maintain good physical and mental health,” Usha adds. A huge personal loss — her father died when she was 16 — shaped her outlook in some important areas. “This tragedy equipped me with decision-making skills, to cope with stress, shoulder responsibilities and adapt to changes in both personal and professional life,” she says.

Her advice to anyone looking at a career as an ATCO? “Cultivate a positive outlook and be an eager learner throughout your career. Continuous training and adaptability to changing technology, procedures, airports and aircraft are part and parcel of this job. Remember, at some point, maybe when you retire, training will end,” she says.
06/07/20 R Edwin Sudhir/Times of India

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