Lorraine Taylor, air traffic controller for UK air navigation services provider Nats, based at the Swanwick control centre in Hampshire, talks to Samantha Mayling about chickens, playing with Lego and bad weather.

I start the morning…
By getting my children ready for school and making breakfast. I also feed our cat, dog and chickens.

The first thing I do when I get to work is…
Read new notices about important changes or information related to controllers generally or the sectors I’m valid on. I also brief on the winds and any bad weather forecast, and check the traffic prediction for the sector so I know how busy we will be.

My daily duties involve…
When I have tactical controller duties I am responsible for ensuring all aircraft flying through my sector arrive safely, land where they should, at the level required and as expeditiously as possible, all while monitoring future traffic levels and ensuring correct read-backs of clearances. I also provide information to pilots and offer direct routings where possible. When I have the planner controller duties, I support the tactical team by coordinating safe levels into and out of the sectors; dealing with phone calls; liaising with other air traffic units and military controllers; monitoring the sector workload; and listening to radio transmissions to ensure they are correct. I also train new cadets.

Before working for Nats…
I worked at an equine event yard, looking after horses. Later I worked at a pensions company, administering pension plans.

I became a controller because…
I wanted a job in aviation, and studied aerospace engineering at university. My dad saw a Nats newspaper advertisement, recruiting for controllers. The job appealed so I applied and got through selection. Although the training was hard, I was fascinated with learning the job and training my brain to think in a new way.

The most rewarding part of my job is…
The satisfaction of ensuring all your aircraft get where they need to be and the buzz from doing a busy session. I love the camaraderie and teamwork elements. I work with amazing people and we support each others, especially on challenging days. The light-hearted conversations we enjoy on our breaks helps to balance the serious side. I enjoy instructing trainees and watching them explore their potential to become air traffic controllers.

The most challenging part of my job is…
Dealing with unusual circumstances or bad weather, which is testing and tiring. However, we train hard to cope and strive to help pilots give the best service possible in challenging circumstances. We have a robust peer support programme that ensures Nats’ staff wellbeing is paramount.

The most common thing I am asked is…
Either: ‘What do you actually do?’ or: ‘Are you one of the people that stands in front of planes waving table tennis bats?’.

To relax I like to…
Play with my children and get hugs from them. Building Lego is one of our favourite things and it’s so therapeutic. I enjoy being outdoors and I walk my dog or ride my horse.

My favourite destinations are…
Canada for stunning scenery and big trucks, and South Africa for breathtaking landscapes and the amazing spirit of the people.

What would you take to a desert island?
Probably my chickens so I’d have company, entertainment and fresh eggs.