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Natasha Caldwell, airfield operations at London City Airport
Andy Parsons

Things you only know if you’re a London airport controller

Written by
Danielle Goldstein

…according to Natasha Caldwell, 26.

City Airport uses lasers to get birds off the runway

‘At the end of 2016 we got a really cool device that’s basically a laser. We shine a little dot right in front of the bird, which scares them so they fly off. It’s amazing – it reaches right to the other end of the runway: 1,199 metres away!’

Some hazards are more unexpected

‘I was once doing a runway inspection and thought I saw a snake. I was terrified and called it in, but it turned out it was an eel, like you get in a pie and mash shop.  A bird had picked it up from the dock water and dropped it. I’ve had a lot of stick about that since it happened.’

It’s quicker to fly to New York from City than any other London airport

‘Because we have a short runway, the plane can’t be too heavy for take-off. It has to stop in Shannon in Ireland to refuel, and passengers can clear security there – so when they arrive in New York the plane is considered a domestic flight, which makes it a quicker journey overall.’

A big part of the job is litter picking

‘The most frustrated part of this job is retrieving FOD (Foreign Object Debris) on a stormy day. I’m the person who runs around trying stomp on bits of paper and plastic bags. You get obsessed. I find myself driving home on the A13, seeing a plastic bag and thinking: FOD!’

City always rescues lost teddies

‘We run Facebook and Twitter campaigns to reunite kids with their teddy bears: photos of the item around the airport to get the message out. I believe all the teddies end up being reunited. But we can’t do it with all lost property – it wouldn’t have the same effect if you were out on the airfield tweeting about a lost shoe.’

Now discover the things you only know if you’re a judge.

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