Abu Dhabi: Aysha Khalifa Al Nuaimi loves her job. The Emirati air traffic controller, 31, has been passionate about planes and aviation ever since her childhood. It is no surprise that today she is a credible professional who has grown from strength to strength in her stellar 10-year career as an air traffic controller.
She is in fact one of the rare cases in her profession with two licences – one for tower and the other for radar. Beside her main job controlling aircraft up in the air and on the ground, owing to her merit, she trains students in air traffic control also.
A day in the life of an air traffic controller
“Every day is a new beginning,” said Aysha. “I start my day taking a deep breath, wear a big smile and think about what I will be able to achieve today. That is my morning ritual.”
She said her day starts with reading up on any new instructions and NOTAMS or notes for any unusual flights or any information change for the day). The schedule is also updated for any events and VIP flights.
“After that, I get briefed by the duty supervisor and I start controlling the aircraft. Otherwise my day is all about giving training to those enrolling for air traffic controller positions.”
“I take a break for an hour or two, depending on how busy the flight schedule is. My work continues for eight hours per day with a break for an hour or two. The break is essential for us to refresh and restart.”
Aysha said: “An air traffic controller is responsible for directing the safe movement of aircraft. We manage the flow of aircraft. Our job is also to guide pilots during take-off and landing. We monitor aircraft as they travel through our skies.”
She added that she went through many specialised courses that include theory and on-the-job training in metrology, human factors, aviation language and air traffic management to get to the level she is now at.
Why Aysha is on top of her game
Besides being passionate about her job, planes and the aviation sector in general, Aysha said she possesses other skills that ensure she is able to manage an otherwise pressure-filled job. “The first thing of course is that one should love planes, aviation and the job of being an air traffic controller. Considering it is such a high-pressured job, a person applying for this position has to have a very focussed mind-set. He or she has to have a great deal of attention for details and have the ability to think three dimensions.
Aysha said a strong mental disposition is a must for a job as an air traffic controller. “There is no room for emotions. One has to leave all that behind. One must be able to multi-task, remain calm under pressure, be able to make quick decisions in emergencies. A person must give accurate instructions and accept considerable responsibility.”
She said another quality essential for an air traffic controller is the need to team work extensively whether with fellow air traffic controllers or pilots or ground staff. “We have to constantly liaise with people in the most positive and cheerful disposition. Our job is to ensure we pass the aircraft from ground to air safely. There is a whole lot of co-ordination required.”
Making the cut
Aysha reiterated how detailing is critical in her line of work. “Altitudes, weather matter. We are required to make on-the-spot decisions whether to change the route of the aircraft based on these factors. Besides, geographical mapping of the city has to be factored in.”
All about the passion
Aysha said at the end of the day, to be able to shine as an air traffic controller, one needs passion. “As a child I loved watching planes fly. I used to tell my parents I want to be a pilot. But I became an air traffic controller. Unfortunately they are not alive to see me today. But I am so grateful for the values they taught me. I love my job and that is why the high pressure job never stresses me out. I would recommend this job to anyone with a love and passion for aviation – together with the ability to multi-task.”
At a glance
Aysha Khalifa Al Nuaimi
Occupation: Air traffic controller
Born: Al Ain, UAE
Morning ritual: Coffee
Favourite fitness regime: Walking, horse riding
Stress buster: Reading the Quran, Yoga, photography
Favourite vacation getaway: London, UK