A day in the life of a Duty Operations Controller

A day in the life of Dawn Fraser, a duty operations controller at Luxaviation UK

Building on a passenger service and handling career in commercial aviation, Dawn Fraser has been a duty operations controller at Luxaviation UK since March 2017. She tells BlueSky…

Our headquarters are at Stapleford Airport in Essex, on the edge of London. I work 12-hour shifts over a four-day period, starting at either 07:00 or 19:00, and then I have four days off. On arrival each day, the outgoing duty operations controller hands over to me. I’ll then check the necessary preparations have been made for all flights taking place during my shift, from pilot and crew allocation to ensuring flight plans have been filed with EUROCONTROL’s Network Manager Operations Centre.

Throughout my shift, I check in with the relevant parties – from the airports to EUROCONTROL to the members of our dispatch team – to ensure all our flights are taking off and landing on time and, when necessary, to find out the cause of any delays or slot problems.

One of the joys of business aviation is the flexibility and so we need to react quickly and efficiently when our customers’ needs or wishes change. Perhaps a meeting has finished early or is running late? Or perhaps passengers loved their inflight lunches so much they want the same meals again on the return flight that evening? I monitor all these details and inform our flight crews – either by telephone or e-mail, indeed sometimes both, as appropriate – to make sure we act accordingly.

I love solving problems, which is no bad thing when you work in business aviation! Airlines are basically restricted to fixed routes and schedules but, as I mentioned earlier, business jets are much more flexible. If we’re hit by, say, an unexpected weather delay, I really enjoy working out a new plan to make sure we still meet our passengers’ needs.

I must also keep aware of industry regulations, such as flight crew duty time limitations, and developments that will affect our services, from air traffic control strikes to new noise curfews or night flying restrictions at airports (such as the new measures in place at London Luton Airport between June 1 and September 30 this year). If we can’t meet a client’s preferences because of unavoidable industry rules, I’ll clearly communicate those facts to the client and work hard to propose a suitable alternative arrangement. And with so much experience and knowledge in the Luxaviation UK team, from Patrick and George [Galanopoulos, managing director] down, there’s always someone available to provide excellent advice.

Mornings are often my busiest time, with many intra-European flights taking off. Evenings are normally less intense but can be busy too, as those intra-European flights return and transatlantic flights take off.

In quieter periods, particularly at nights, I like to find the time to work on client-facing tasks such as preparing quotes. It’s especially fulfilling to see a job through from the very start to the very finish, from taking the client’s initial enquiry and securing the deal through to being the duty operations controller monitoring the takeoff and landing of that flight.

I don’t like leaving jobs unfinished, so at the end of my shift I work hard to finalise and complete all my ongoing tasks before handing over to the next duty operations controller.

Having worked for major handling companies including Swissport and Menzies Aviation at busy locations such as London Stansted and London Gatwick airports, I thought I knew everything about aviation…but I was wrong! Although the passenger experience is critical in both sectors, business aviation is very different from the airline industry and that’s part of why I love the job. I don’t think people who have never flown in a business jet realise just how incredibly flexible our industry can be, allowing you to fly whenever and wherever you want. Customer interactions in business aviation are so much happier than in the airline industry. It’s great never having to say to a passenger: “I’m sorry but you’ve missed your flight”!

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