January 24, 2010

Women? In Air Traffic Control?

Filed under: Uncategorized — by melaniedawn @ 3:10 pm

Up to twelve years ago, the amount of female Air Traffic Controllers could be counted on a small number of hands. At that time the Irish Aviation Authority decided to start official Student Controller Programmes, training up classes of people from scratch (up to then people joined as assistants and slowly worked their way up). So suddenly, ATC found itself bringing in classes with a 50/50 split of male and female cadets.

Initially the older male controllers were bemused with our arrival. On our initial tour of the centre, there were comments like ‘finally some eye candy’ and ‘do we need so many secretaries’. Then the penny dropped that credibility in here would have to be earned. The two years of training, passing exams and simulation exercises were tough, but we were well prepared for a life as a controller. What we weren’t prepared for was being on a team – teams that were predominantly male.

On our first day, we were given a run down of how things went ‘on the floor’. No junior controllers to sit together in a sector (understandable), and no females to sit together. I distinctly remember being removed from a sector because I was sitting with a female controller. Thinking back, they were leaving themselves wide open, and it wouldn’t be done today, but this is what we were faced with and as newbies, you just kept the head down and let your work speak for itself.

Today things are better although we’re still noticeably in the minority. I’ve been the only girl on my team for a while now. There are pros and cons, I’m well looked after by the guys and they’re quite protective of their ‘girlie’. On the downside, as the girl, I’m the ‘organiser’ of the team. The Christmas party, team outings, Birthday/Retirement/Congratulations cards and presents .. all left to me to sort out. Also, the ‘banter’ between the guys can get quite inappropriate, and while I don’t generally mind, it gets tiring being the only girl sitting there trying to appear ‘not bovvered’

Interestingly, Nationwide were filming in the centre last week for a segment on careers. I managed to avoid them for an hour when I was cornered in a sector, with them asking if they could film. I said surely they’d enough footage by now but they explained I was the only woman on duty all day and they had to get that shot for all the female students out there.

Finally, I’m always intrigued by people’s reaction to what I do. When asked, I usually take a deep breath and think ‘here we go’. (I’ve been known to answer I’m a nurse when I’m too tired to go into the whole thing) I try not to take offense at the look of shock that follows ‘I’m an Air Traffic Controller’. Generally people are just interested and find it an unusual career choice, but my favourite reaction to this was when an older man asked me did that mean I was ‘hoping to be an air hostess some day’ .. I think that says it all



  1. […] I had always saved my posts so I set up a blog again and copied everything back in. The only difference is that the dates on all posts is now the 24th […]

    Pingback by Blogger seeks legal advice over Irish Mail on Sunday article | Editors' Blog — January 26, 2010 @ 3:55 pm |Reply

  2. Hi,
    This is actually about your other post, but comments are blocked on that. I apologise for commenting on the wrong story.
    I just wanted to let you know that all your original posts, in their original format (including photos) are still on Google Cache at
    Just in case you want to compare them as you restore your blog, or if you want to be able to show that the version you have added above is the same version as that which the Daily Mail ‘journalist’ read.

    Good luck with whatever you decide to do, and however you decide to handle this.

    Comment by ErrorPositiveInfinity — January 26, 2010 @ 10:40 pm |Reply

  3. […] re-published copy of Schregardus’ original blog post can be viewed here; Bernie Goldbach has a PDF of the newspaper article on his blog (or Twitpic […]

    Pingback by Irish Mail on Sunday responds to air controller blogger’s complaint | Editors' Blog — January 28, 2010 @ 4:14 pm |Reply

  4. […] can compare the article and the blog for themselves, here's links to them both. Melanie's Blog Women? In Air Traffic Control? MelanieDawn Mail on Sunday article PDF And the magazine from where her […]

    Pingback by Gutter journalism Via the Mail on Sunday : Melanie Dawn taken out of context. - Page 4 - — January 28, 2010 @ 5:52 pm |Reply

  5. […] Its obvious if you read the article they published and compare it with Melanie’s post. […]

    Pingback by Nerin Online - Mail on Sunday responds to criticism — January 28, 2010 @ 9:51 pm |Reply

  6. […] to her friends on Twitter) an air traffic controller who some time ago wrote an innocent blog post describing her experiences and trepidations in the initial days of her unusual job, only to find […]

    Pingback by The Made Up News « That Surf Shop Guy — January 31, 2010 @ 6:30 pm |Reply

  7. Congrats! You’ve rallied through the storm and can now blow your trumpet. I say yes to women in the profession.

    Comment by waynefarley — May 4, 2010 @ 12:57 am |Reply

  8. Hi,

    I used to be a flight instructor and am interested in pursuing an ATC career. Would I be able to pick your brain about it? Thanks!

    Comment by katie — May 6, 2010 @ 6:52 pm |Reply

  9. I like the comment of the old man. Of course this is an other generation and he can be forgiven. For our generation things are a little different …

    Comment by menapause — June 1, 2010 @ 1:41 pm |Reply

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