My industrial placement year is based within the company NATS (National Air Traffic Services). I was instantly attracted by the industrial placement scheme at NATS as it seemed so diverse and interesting in comparison to other suitable schemes, mainly based in finance or banking. NATS provide air traffic control services to aircraft flying in UK airspace and over the eastern part of the North Atlantic. It is the main Air Navigation Service Provider within the UK. My role is based within the Operational Analysis department within NATS, where the responsibility lies in supporting operational performance analysis within NATS. This is accomplished through a range of expert analytical skills within the department. Different areas which OA supports, and which I have been involved in since joining, are safety analysis, runway capacity and environmental issues.
I am based within the Capability & Strategy team where the focus is on making sure that the right people, tools, data and techniques exist to deliver the analysis customers need today and in the future. An example of this is a future project I will be involved in which I will be employing my Java computing skills from University, in the hope of improving current tools used to display aircraft routes. I was particularly interested in the placement year within Operational Analysis over the engineering department with it being more focused towards students from a numerate background. The opportunity to employ my mathematical skills, whilst gaining first-hand experience of air traffic control activities seemed exciting and unlike any other placement opportunities.
Since starting at NATS I have been given the opportunity to work on a number of different projects and expected to take responsibility for meeting deadlines. I have been given the chance to manage my own projects and time, with the sense of having a real purpose and responsibility, within the department.
An example of the work I undertake is in the responsibility of producing quarterly reports on level busts. A level bust is when a plane deviates 300 feet or more from it’s assigned level.
The level bust league tables are produced every quarter (March, June, September and December). The reports show the analysis on level busts reported over a 1 and 3 year period, displaying the number of level busts for each operator in a league table format. There are also tables which break down the level busts by the flight type on which they occurred, such as air transport, private or military flights. Before starting, I received training in how to complete the analysis and produce the quarterly report, by replicating the previous quarterly report as practice. I enjoyed this project as it incorporated a variety of different skills from grasping elements of Microsoft Access which I had never come across before, to producing a final report which was clear and accurate.
One of the most interesting parts of the placement year so far was when myself and the other placement students visited Heathrow control tower, to gain an insight into how air traffic controllers operate in an airport. At the top of the tower we were able to watch the Air Traffic Controllers as they communicated with pilots which was incredible to see. We were able to observe the arrangement of controllers which is adopted in the tower such as a specific position for the controller of one of the runways. It was a really enjoyable day whilst giving a great insight into Air Traffic Control on the front line.
I feel that my industrial placement year will definitely benefit me in returning to University, as well as in my future career. In regards to my final year, I believe that I can utilise some greatly improved skills such as time management which has been fundamental in completing my projects to precise dates. I feel that my general motivation and incentive in completing work has also increased. Having been in academic surroundings for nearly all of my life, the industrial placement has definitely given me an appreciation of the importance, and experience behind the discipline, responsibility and pressure in a work environment.