Ever wondered who controls the comings and goings of the hundreds of thousands of aircraft in our Singapore skies? MH finds out more from Senior Air Traffic Control Officer, Mohammad Yusri Ahmad.
WORDS NURULHUDA SUHAIMI
Admittedly, when I first heard about the position of an Air Traffic Control Officer, or ATCO, I wasn’t completely sure whom that refers to, and what an ATCO does.
“We’re not those who wear neon vests on the tarmac waving flags!” exclaims 35-year-old Mohammad Yusri Ahmad, who works as a Senior Air Traffic Control Officer.
Watching Over Singapore’s Airspace
Having worked for 12 years as an ATCO, Yusri provided Motherhood with some insight into what goes on in the life of an ATCO. “We actually work either at the control tower at Changi or Seletar Airport or the Singapore Air Traffic Control Centre situated near Changi Village. Our main job is to get an aircraft to its destination in a smooth, expeditious and orderly manner.”
“I communicate with pilots over the air coming in and out of Singapore, as well as those overflying our airspace. We ensure all the aircraft keep clear of each other through procedures and standards in place.”
All jobs have their challenges, but probably nothing like what an ATCO goes through. An ATCO not only holds the responsibility of guiding aircraft but also ensuring the safety of the crew and passengers on board.
For Yusri, the most challenging, and according to him, “exciting”, aspects of his job is “orchestrating aircraft in and out of Changi International Airport”.
He says, “Being one of the busiest airports in the world, aircraft land in and fly out of Changi almost every other minute! I would be in contact with about 15 to 20 aircraft at one time, sequencing them for arrival as well as deconflicting them from departing aircraft.”
A Juggling Act
The challenges of an ATCO aren’t just confined to the job itself. For a family man like Yusri, his less-than-ordinary work hours – “three different shifts in an eight-day cycle, regardless of weekends or public holidays”, he says – means he has to find the balance between his job and family.
“My wife is in the banking industry and works office hours. So, most of the time she compromises and works around my schedule. Thankfully, she has a very good support system to fall on whenever I have to work. Whatever limited time both of us have outside work is precious family time,” he says.
Father to a two-year-old daughter, quality time with his little one is important to Yusri. When asked how he spends his free time with his family, he says, “I stay near the beach so on my off days, I would bring my daughter out and cycle to the park and enjoy the outdoors. For me, it is important to expose my daughter to the world outside, pick up life skills, and not just interact with gadgets.”
He adds, “We enjoy staycations and holidays. Recently, we embarked on a two-week trip to Italy and travelled through five different cities. It wasn’t easy with a toddler but we managed!”
Quality over Quantity
If you’re a dad yourself whose job limits you from spending lots of time with your family, don’t beat yourself up over it. As Yusri says, “We don’t have quantity, but make that up with quality.”
“Be it at home or outdoors, interact and explore new horizons with the family. Continue to have dates with your wife. People tend to forget that the core relationship in the family is between a husband and wife. A healthy relationship with the missus can only be good for the family.”
Last but not least, don’t forget to have some time for yourself too. Advises Yusri, “To keep your sanity in check, also make time for your hobby. Only then there will be balance in life!”