This week’s #lifeatheathrow featured photo is courtesy of Neil Martin, a Senior Airfield Officer who has been working at Heathrow since he was 15 years old.
Neil’s image – “Water versus fire” – captures our amazing firefighters during one of their simulated training exercises using a mock-up 747/MD11 aircraft. We’ve caught up with Neil to find out more about his career at Heathrow.
How long have you worked at Heathrow?
I have worked at Heathrow since I was 15, pushing passengers with mobility needs. On my 16th birthday I became the youngest person to gain a full airside identification pass and then when I was 18 I became a Security Officer.
From there I progressed to become a Security Supervisor before finally moving to Airside Operations 13 years ago. So I have been working at the airport for 20 years and I’m only 35!
If you had to describe Heathrow in 3 words, what would they be?
Formidable – Dynamic – Legend
What’s a day in the life of your job really like?
A day in my working life as a Senior Airfield Officer involves working within a team of about 20 people during the day to ensure the airport runs smoothly. Our aim is to keep the airside environment moving.
I inspect runway areas, flagging and reporting faults and ensuring the airport stays ahead of the game. I also patrol to ensure the wider airport community are safe and do not take risks. It’s very busy airside with so many people and companies all working hard to keep Heathrow running.
Another main focus of Airside operations is to ensure the airfield is compliant with the various regulations and rules set by the British, European and World aviation authorities. Some of the things we need to certain that are working and compliant are runway and taxiway surface quality so as a result we are regularly involved in inspecting them.
It’s not just the runways and taxiway surfaces though as pretty much every element of an aircraft movement requires strict compliance to a number of regulations and rules. For example, light fittings and paint marks on the tarmac as well as associated signage are other important elements that need to be checked. The role also extends to inspecting work sites after construction is completed to ensure the area is safe for operation and any changes are compliant with regulations.
Another important element of my job is ensuring that the presence of birds and wildlife is kept to a minimum by using a number of dispersal methods – including bird scaring techniques. This is important so that the birds are safe and do not become a potential hazard for an aircraft.
Probably my favourite part of the role is the fact that we assist pilots and air traffic control to keep things moving, which also includes marshalling aircraft onto stands when needed.
What do you enjoy most about Life at Heathrow?
The bit I enjoy most about Heathrow is the variation it provides. It really is like a small city and as a result there are countless complex challenges that arise every day.
To me, Heathrow’s life airside is like a jack in the box: you know there’s always another challenge around the corner, but when and where it occurs is always a surprise.
I’m very lucky that I can patrol everywhere airside so I’m able to get to some rare vantage spots for aircraft with my favourite places being next to the runways.
Favourite moment while working at Heathrow?
I’ve had too many favourite moments to pick just one! I’d have to say that being an extra in a couple of films and getting involved in some of the big VIP movements that Heathrow welcomes would be some of the most memorable moments though!
Hobbies? What do you do in your spare time?
Aviation is at the heart of what I enjoy and do as a hobby. My job is a bit of a busman’s holiday. I used to travel all over the world visiting many airports, aviation museums and taking photos, however, this has drastically reduced since the arrival of my children!
I still get to sneak away occasionally for a few days somewhere in Europe and Istanbul is next on my list before the old airport (Ataturk) closes. Occasionally I do a little bit of flight simulation. In truth, I do get a bit of stick from my colleagues about being an AvGeek but given where I work – I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
Most of my non-work time involves the family. I have 3 daughters aged between four and 16, so most of the time I’m providing back up to my wife when she’s working and it feels like I’m forever taking them to school, gymnastics, dance lessons etc – basically providing a taxi service. But hey that’s being a Dad I guess.
Our Social Media and Airport Communications teams are working together to co-ordinate the series and share these great Heathrow moments with the over 1 million followers across the airport’s official channels! Be sure to follow our #lifeatheathrow journey via @Heathrow_Airport on Instagram and @HeathrowAirport on Twitter.