Gillian’s new career takes off

Gillian Layhe
Gillian Layhe

A five year stint with Emirate airlines has landed Gillian Layhe her dream job and she’s now training to be an air traffic controller.

Gillian, who grew up in Paxton, was clearly destined for the job - in a career quiz at Berwickshire High School she was recommended to go for a career in air traffic control where staff need to be puzzle-solvers and quick-thinkers as well as being able to stay calm under pressure.

“One of the moments I knew I wanted to be a controller was sitting in the cockpit during a Heathrow landing, hearing the non-stop, fast-paced exchange between controllers and pilots,” said Gillian.

“It didn’t make a lot of sense to me at the time, but I was fascinated,

“Aviation attracts great people and it’s really fun. I wanted to live in the UK and be based on the ground so I wasn’t as interested in becoming a pilot, but a friend working in air traffic control in Abu Dhabi encouraged me to apply for air traffic control.

“I like the idea of being trained in a specialist skill, and air traffic control gives me just that.”

Now Gillian’s on the aerodrome and approach course at the NATS (National Air Traffic Services) training college in Whiteley, Hampshire, to learn how to guide aircraft safely in towards landing at an airport and so far the job is living up to expectations.

“I’d love to be a Heathrow controller one day,” she said. “It’s got such a buzz about it.”

“The reason I didn’t pursue it initially was the common perception that it is a very stressful job – but chatting to qualified controllers made me realise that if you have the right skills, personality, and training, this is not true.

“Yes, it’s challenging and there’s a lot to learn, but the quality of training is exceptional and you don’t control live air traffic until you are ready. The operations rooms are surprisingly calm; for me they’re a lot less stressful than an office environment! NATS is a great company to work for, which was an attraction as well.”