Life at MAN - Adam Barker (Airfield Safety & Compliance Officer)
From scooting around the wings of enormous aircraft and guiding them into stands, to shovelling snow and rescuing stranded animals, life on the airfield never gets boring, says Airfield Safety & Compliance Officer, Adam Barker. He explains to us why he still arrives at work with a spring in his step after more than two decades of service at Manchester Airport.
How long have you been working at the airport?
I've been at the airport for 21 years now, straight out of college. I started with Travelex, then joined the security team, became a security team leader, progressed to security manager, and then I've moved on to airfield ops which I've always wanted to do.
What does your job involve?
We do a variety of jobs across the airfield, from marshalling the aircraft onto the stands to runway inspections, taxiway checks, auditing, and wildlife control. If our ATC colleagues (Air Traffic Control) need anything checking down on the ground level, we’re the people that they'll ask to check that for them.
Running a safe and efficient airfield is the overall goal. Ideally, we want on-time performance – the aircraft to come in on time, and to leave on time – and we want the airfield to run safely.
What skills are needed for the role?
You need to be very proactive, because if we see something out here that's not right, we have to get it sorted and it's better to get it sorted beforehand, rather than after a safety issue has arisen.
Obviously, we've got to be reactive as well because some things are out of our control. You've got to be good at being able to prioritise your work. We may take two, three, four jobs at one time and we have to decide right there and then which one is the main safety issue. You've just got to be prepared for everything, really!
How does the airfield team deal with extreme weather?
Each type of extreme weather has its own issues, but the one that causes the most problems is probably the snow. Just a few millimetres of settled snow could be enough to close an airfield because of the hazards it poses to large, heavy aircraft travelling at speed, so you need to be proactively treating the runway before any snowfall, and then clearing anything that does settle.
Even if there's only a 20 per cent chance of snow in the forecast, the airport brings in resilience teams to clear the snow immediately to try and get passengers back on their way at the earliest opportunity.
What about keeping wildlife away from the airfield?
Any wildlife on or above the airfield can obviously pose a danger to aircraft, and vice versa, so we have to be alert to that and it's very challenging!
The birds are pretty persistent, but we have a number of methods to be able to get rid of them. We have distress signals on the vehicles, which replicate the calls of certain common species, and we have air pistols to send up flares. Sometimes the best course of action is just get out of your vehicle and clap your hands, and they’ll go. We also keep the grass around the airfield at a certain length to prevent ground nesting birds from settling there.
What is the best thing about working here?
The best thing that's come out of me working at the airport is that I met my now wife here when I was on security. We've got two beautiful boys, my family mean everything to me and that's what the airport has brought me. I'll be forever grateful for that.
Would you recommend working at the airport?
I absolutely would recommend working here. I've been at the airport for 21 years myself - there's obviously something good about the place that makes me stay here!
Only a couple of months ago, I had a ‘Bring Your Child to Work Day’ with my eldest child and a load of other kids that colleagues had brought in with them, and we showed them the airfield, Olympic house, and the fire station. That's the future of Manchester Airport – I’m sure some of them will be here in 20 years and I hope my lad is one of them.
Which destination that we serve from Manchester do you most want to visit?
My ideal destination would be Orlando, for the kids. You've got a bit of everything there – the sea, the Space Centre - which I love – the theme parks too.
What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
The kids keep me very busy! Both of them play football. I’m a coach for my youngest child’s team, and my eldest’s team’s biggest fan. I'm into my sport generally – speedway, ice hockey, baseball – I’m just a bit of a sports madman really!