This time last week I came to finish my weeks Work Experience with BAA at London Heathrow Airport. As I’d been at Air France, I was expecting good things from this second week and it was so enjoyable I didn’t want to leave last Friday! Anyway, let me tell you about my week.
Monday 12th July
Had to wake up very early at around 0530, to get dressed poshly and wash/shower etc to be ready to leave the house at 0600 to catch the 0640 bus from Oxford to Heathrow. Made it out in good time and I left on time also. The bus was packed, but we got there at about 0815, which wasn’t the best for my 0830 report time…but I got there ok!
I got to D’albiac house to meet my supervisor for the week, and I also met the other girl who would be working with me that week. We went and got our airside passes for the week, and then the girl was dropped at American to literally watch them checking people in for their flights that day.
Meanwhile, I got settled straight in at Airfield Operations, we drove to their office which is just north of 09R/27L. I soon went out with two great guys and we did the famous ‘Checker’ service. This comprises of driving down an active runway (whilst safe) and checking for debris/litter etc. It’s a magical experience, and the rush you get from having to dive off the runway knowing a 777 is starting its takeoff roll is fantastic!
After that we returned for a break, and the screens the guys have up there were explained to me. In the afternoon the girl joined me, and she went out to do Checker whilst I waited to go do some marshalling. When she’d left, one guy said “Do you wanna go out with “D”? I paused, said yes and started laughing. Anyway, never mind that! Soon left again to go marshalling, we marshalled a Dubai 744 onto the Royal Suite, a biz ac to one of the 6__ stands and visited other ac to have a look around etc.
Along came 4pm….home time! Somehow I think not, I stayed until 7! I was enjoying myself so much that I stayed for a while longer and a big thankyou to the guys for taking care of me for that additional time; I really appreciate all your efforts.
Tuesday 13th July
Another early start to get the bus, but from yesterdays experience I knew it’d be worth it every day this week…and I wasn’t wrong. Tuesday began with 30 minutes spent on the information desk in Terminal 3 arrivals to help passengers sort out meetings, and how to get to places etc.
We soon moved on (long story), and “D” and I basically patrolled the terminal, checking Piers 5, 6 and 7 and responding to any calls. For example, we had a fire call of a ticket machine at gate 32, so we ran and checked it was all ok.
In the afternoon I visited the Star Centre. This is basically BAA’s control centre, with loads of CCTV cameras and lots of management systems to ensure that the airport operates smoothly and there are no problems anywhere in the Airport.
Wednesday 14th July
Today started with a hot chocolate from Starbucks, I had some spare time so I thought why not have a drink before work!? Anyway soon enough we met up with “T” again and another girl who was with us (“C”) did a bit more T3 airside patrol….we had a look around for Ruby Wax who was apparently comparing some shop prices….but we didn’t see her. Never mind! We went off for a tea break, and then did some more walking…..might not sound fun but it was to see what was going on all around.
Soon enough it was time for lunch, got that done and then “D” and I went to the Terminal 1 International Traffic Box. This is the box in the international baggage reclaim hall of Terminal 1 and the box is responsible for deciding which flights’ luggage goes on which belt and such. We had to answer calls from the handlers driving the trucks to instruct them to which belt to take their bags too. After we did that for a flight, a computer record must be kept of it….and this is fed into the displays that you see in the reclaim hall!
“D” and I thought it’d be a little boring, but I’d say don’t knock it until you’ve tried it….it was actually quite fun to have some direct responsibility, and both D and myself enjoyed it.
Thursday 15th July
At 9:30 I went to American Airlines to their ramp operations team for a few hours. Basically they are the guys that push aircraft, tow aircraft and load them ready for their flights back home.
During my few hours there we towed two 777-200s from one stand to another from the cockpit, once I was in the Co-pilot seat and once in the middle jumpseat for the 15 or so minute ride across the terminal.
In the afternoon at around 1.30 myself and “D” visited bmi british midland. To be honest we just had a look around Terminal 1, the checkin area….security, a few gates and we watched a flight to EDI board and push and then that was pretty much it for bmi……lacking, but very informative!
Friday 16th July
Deary me, my final day Brought flowers in for my co-ordinator, as it was down to her and her contacts that had contacts that I’d been able to do the majority of the things I’d done that week.
At 9:30 we caught the Heathrow Express to Terminal 4, as I was to be spending some time with Kenya Airways to look over their processing of the morning flight to Nairobi. We went and watched KQ103 push back from the T4 tarmac, and start-up and taxi out to 27L to depart.
Myself and the man I was with walked to the end of the road and watched a few a/c takeoffs and I took some photos etc. We then returned to the BAA offices at D’albiac house and myself and “D” had our photos taken for the BAA Intranet website.
At around 2pm I was soooo lucky to be able to go and visit the ATC Tower for 45 minutes with “R”. We went to the top and I saw how everything works….it still is fairly old fashioned with computers etc, and it really is not tall enough to see the whole airfield which is the idea of the tower, right?
When T5 is completed, the new tower will overlook the whole airfield, and so everything will be much better, and there will be much more space up there and also more modern systems for the controllers to work with.
OK, I couldn’t resist! I went back to Airfield Ops again! We got to do another checker, absolutely fantastic experience again and we made sure everything was ok around the field…..again I finished late….5.40pm this time, but hey I’m addicted, it was really fun!
So, in conclusion my week was out of this world! I learnt an incredible amount about the varied roles of the BAA staff, and found their dedication and professionalism (shown at all times), towards what is not always a 'straightforward' job, - incredible. The enthusiasm with which you all carry out your work with the airlines, make you the true 'backbone of the airport'.
I am definitely sure that I had the best Work Experience of anyone in my school, and the thorough background that you were able to show me, has been an invaluable insight to my chosen career. Thank you for making me feel very welcome, my time interesting, and for the opportunity to use my week to its full potential.