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ATC work/life balance

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ATC work/life balance

Old 13th Dec 2014, 21:16
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Thank you for the replies everyone!

Judging from the encouragement and willingness to help in your responses, i'm inclined to say ATCs are a very friendly bunch! I was actually worried i'd get abuse for my ignorance :P

The job itself is almost perfect, it sounds like; (Almost) unanimous job satisfaction amongst you all! Moving to your given post (swanwick/prestwick usually?), shift work, etc are sacrifices that don't phase me particularly. BUT - the idea of missing important moments (xmas, birthdays, etc) is quite daunting to me.

how do you guys manage? Do you have problems maintaining friendships (attending social events, etc)? Does it cause rifts with family/other half/kids? Or is it a case of all your friends, etc are fellow ATCs?

Last edited by sparklesandsweat; 13th Dec 2014 at 22:47. Reason: additional questions
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Old 14th Dec 2014, 09:51
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My wife loved my working hours because I had so much time off with her and with so much time off any family arrangements could be accommodated. In addition to never working Christmas Day I never worked our wedding anniversaries or birthdays in all those years either! Life at a smaller unit might not be quite as easy but it's still better than 9-5. I recall a conversation with a neighbour who had popped in to have coffee with my wife:

Neighbour: Oh, you're home again then.
Me: Yes, I have worked my 26 hours for this week.
Neighbour: My husband worked 80 hours last week but then he has very good job.
Me: He hasn't got a job; he's living in purgatory.

Said husband eventually died after many strokes totally incapacitated him..
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Old 14th Dec 2014, 13:39
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I, more or less, concur with HD. When I was at EGPD our next door neighbours thought I was unemployed. &, that was when 'PD was the third busiest aerodrome in the UK !
I didn't have it as easy as HD with Xmas & NY, but I had far more of them off than I worked. Even so, the loss of a few days was well worth it considering the overall time off benefits.
But, as a recently retired ATCO said above, the job has changed somewhat & it was before the "stifling hand" of the regulators made an unwanted appearance !
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Old 14th Dec 2014, 13:41
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sparkleandsweat

Look, it's STILL better than working !
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Old 15th Dec 2014, 10:03
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Thank you for the replies everyone!

Judging from the encouragement and willingness to help in your responses, i'm inclined to say ATCs are a very friendly bunch! I was actually worried i'd get abuse for my ignorance :P

The job itself is almost perfect, it sounds like; (Almost) unanimous job satisfaction amongst you all! Moving to your given post (swanwick/prestwick usually?), shift work, etc are sacrifices that don't phase me particularly. BUT - the idea of missing important moments (xmas, birthdays, etc) is quite daunting to me.

how do you guys manage? Do you have problems maintaining friendships (attending social events, etc)? Does it cause rifts with family/other half/kids? Or is it a case of all your friends, etc are fellow ATCs?
To clarify, if you do start with NATS you do not pick your own post. Nor do you pick your speciality (ie Area/Approach/Aerodrome). The company will pick based on business needs at the time, and they will post you where you are needed. This is something you have to sign up to.

I personally didn't see it as a problem, but you should be aware that there is no garuantee at all of getting what you want. It's all down to what the company needs.


I don't have friends so don't have that problem

Jokes aside, it can be tricky. My other half is routinely a bit annoyed that I plan my holidays more than 6 months in advance (as she has no way of doing so), but that's just the way it works. So far it works out for us, how we feel about it in 20 years I don't know.

There are pros and cons to everything, I have worked 9-5 and now work shifts. I prefer the shifts because I'm less time at work and I can still plan my life quite nicely around it. Some people find it difficult but with a bit of planning I think it works out well.


Finally, for me, it boils down to this
sparkleandsweat

Look, it's STILL better than working !
I spend my days doing something that I find quite enjoyable, I have worked in the real world and I have no interest in going back. Yes there are downsides to ATC as well as anything else, but I still think it beats working for a living.
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Old 15th Dec 2014, 12:02
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Crazy Voyager

So very glad that today's generation of ATCOS still think that way !
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Old 16th Dec 2014, 08:31
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HD you were lucky but don't mislead the youth of today.Your and kcockaynes world no longer exists.Over-regulation,privatisation,non-aviation itinerant management and the bottom dollar have changed everything in the industry.
I agree with Plazbot even if your Christmasses were subject to a draw if means someone was unlucky and perhaps someone was selfish in not giving up the odd one.31 off is incredible&couldn't happen now.I stand corrected if there was no-one at your unit who ever wanted a Christmas off.
I've worked in the real world and ATC- both have good and bad points.The life of an ATCO is great in your 20s and early 30s.After that family life&responsibilities take a knock as all those 0500 starts and Night shifts take their toll.Co-ordinating your wife's time off with yours and school holidays becomes an issue.Missed birthdays and missed anniversaries and school functions because you can't get leave lead to ill feeling.You learn to take the rough with smooth. It is a good career but it is not the walk in the park some on here would have you believe.
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Old 16th Dec 2014, 08:54
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One plays the cards one is dealt with at the time. The leave system was done by consensus and was in no way dictatorial.
The life of an ATCO is also great in your 40s, 50s & 60s but it requires a positive attitude.
If one can't cope one should move on otherwise put the children in boarding school, tell the wife to get a meaningful well paid job and enjoy life as a 'mover and shaker' rather than as a watcher on the sidelines.
You appear to epitomise modern Britain as in the 'Me Me Me Gen X "I want it all but I don't want to put the effort in".

Stand up straight, fear God, Honour the Queen, shoot straight and keep your rifle clean.

And this from a Guardian reader since the '60s.


 
Old 16th Dec 2014, 09:30
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<<I agree with Plazbot even if your Christmasses were subject to a draw if means someone was unlucky and perhaps someone was selfish in not giving up the odd one.>>

Just to let you know how it worked. Well before Christmas a list was drawn up showing the days over Christmas and New Year with columns appropriate to the number of staff required. We just popped our names in the columns showing when we would be happy to work - simple as that. I always opted to work Boxing Day and New Year if our watch was on and I always managed to get leave on Christmas Day. Nobody was inconvenienced in the slightest and everyone got what they wanted.

My wife never worked so she was always home when I was, which was magic and, God forbid, our sons never went to boarding school so we were a pretty happy family. I drove a Reliant Robin rather than a Porsche but that didn't worry me.
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Old 16th Dec 2014, 10:09
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Boarding school no problem.
Reliant Robin, magical 'cos you never really knew when they would tip over.
Family cars were a series of Citroens starting with a Light 15 Traction Avant with Dicky seat.
Later EGLL & EGTT ATCOs were the Porsche owning set.

Me, I preferred my Lotus

 
Old 16th Dec 2014, 13:04
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LeftBlank

I am genuinely sorry that my ATC world no longer exists ( I would sincerely have hoped that you all still could experience it !) I actually acknowledged that fact with my comment about the "Dead Hand of the regulator".
I was also gratified to hear that some of today's breed of ATCO still seriously enjoys the job.
Everything else that I commented on may have completely changed - for which I blame "Public Private Partnerships" & the "Regulator" (SRG). I accept that. But what I said about the "job" in "my day" was the truth (not work, great personalities, enjoyable experience, plenty of time off).
I am sorry if you don't get that today, but greatly encouraged to hear that at least some ATCOS still feel that "it is better than working".
If it isn't, it is the present day ATCOS who bear part of the blame for allowing this to happen - is it not ?
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Old 17th Dec 2014, 19:12
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As an operational ATCO who is still pre-40 (just!), I can say that most operational ATCO's do enjoy the job. It's the politics and the peripheral stuff that ruin it (not to mention those ATCO's that are still operational and taking their pension and still winging about everything in the world!!) but I expect that's the same in any large organisation. One thing that is definitely true today is that you do get plenty of leave but at my unit (47+ATCO') trying to get the leave when you require it has become almost a nightmare! You end up squabbling with your colleagues as to which cycles you can have off in the summer, some cycles only 1 ATCO can be off the roster at any 1 time and as far as christmas leave is concerned.......what a joke!! All I can say is that if Santa worked in ATC you wouldn't get your prezzies!!! I must work with people who all want the same time off?? Funny that!
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Old 18th Dec 2014, 07:06
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Having been with NATS for 28 years, you will always have the "it's not what it used to be brigade", but don't let that put you off a career in ATC.

You will have to make compromises regarding holiday time, especially at smaller units.

I still enjoy my work and I think that holds true for most of the younger generation although it is noticeable that a lot fewer have much of an interest in aviation.

Good luck in whatever you choose to do.
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Old 18th Dec 2014, 08:06
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Just out of curiosity, and pardon my ignorance, but exactly when did the UK's ATC system go private?
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Old 18th Dec 2014, 09:05
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Sometime in 2001, if memory serves.
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Old 18th Dec 2014, 10:29
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sparklesandsweat

If you have the right attitude you will never regret becoming a controller. A lot of the potential negatives that you highlight are in fact positives....shift work is brilliant and you soon get used to it.....all those horrible social events/family gatherings [and a multitude of other things] can be avoided; the time off is exceptional and avoids the weekend crush. If you have kids you will share their growth and development in a way that no other 9 to 5 weekday worker can equal.
This is my last day....I finally unplug my headset from the "fish-finder" at 2100, my last plane will probably be somewhere over South West UK. If you keep your nose clean and remain low profile.....do your job the best that you can every day and to every pilot with a cheery smile......you will enjoy a fantastic career. Its all about attitude and a bit of give and take.....today will be 44 years 11 months and 8 days........must remember to clear out my locker and hand in the headset and passes on the way out.
I envy you! Good luck!
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Old 18th Dec 2014, 11:37
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055166K Wise words indeed. Many congrats on hanging up your electric hat and I wish you many happy and healthy years in retirement. Good luck.

My very first boss said to me: "If you get a ticket and eventually validate, it's money for old rope". How right he was...... but the "old rope" was quite exciting and I wouldn't have had it any other way.
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Old 18th Dec 2014, 16:50
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ATC work/life balance

It's all relative! Yes, you will hear the old-timers saying "it's not what it used to be" etc. and that is true. But the world is not what it used to be. It's not a hardship restricted only to ATC. Remember: the baby boomer generation was raised in a world of free education, cheap housing, public sector jobs-for-life, great pensions etc. and that world simply doesn't exist anymore.
I feel incredibly lucky to have landed such a fantastic career and wouldn't swap it for anything. Missing the odd Christmas lunch or night out drinking is a small price to pay!

My advice would be to apply now while you're deciding. The waiting list is only getting longer!

Good luck.
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Old 18th Dec 2014, 17:56
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O55166k,
Have a very long and happy retirement. It's been a pleasure reading your wise words.
Zooks.
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Old 18th Dec 2014, 19:29
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Vercingetorix
You said
"You appear to epitomise modern Britain as in the 'Me Me Me Gen X "I want it all but I don't want to put the effort in".
Well I guess you got me there.

I enjoyed talking to planes but it was the 'peripherals' that were becoming just dumber and dumber. That and nearly always not being able to take leave when I wanted/needed amongst some other things.
I'm sure a teacher's job of 30 years ago is no different to a teacher's job today.

The original post asked about work/life balance and I'm giving an alternative view of ATC a bit closer to the job that is done today.
The past is a foreign country, they 'did' things differently there…….
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