Air Navigation Solutions prides itself on the breadth and depth of its team’s experience, but none compare to that of Bob Parry, one of its Edinburgh-based ATCOs, who has just completed 50 years in air traffic control.
Bob started his career on 3rd August 1970 as a trainee air traffic controller at Halfpenny Green Airport near Wolverhampton. Whilst he built his skills dealing with mostly general aviation traffic, he also had to rise to the challenge of the Airport’s annual air show, which included the Goodyear Air Races, and handling a plethora of RAF aircraft from the Red Arrows, to Lightnings and Vulcans.
Those intense moments were to stand him in good stead as he moved from Halfpenny to the UK’s busiest airport, Heathrow. As Bob says, it was like “jumping into the fire – incredibly exciting”. Over the next three years, he worked in the Tower, Radar Room and Flight Clearance at what was then an airport with a third runway.
Over the next three years, Bob handled a huge variety of commercial aircraft – many more than there are today, he recalls – including Concorde, the DC-10 and DC-8, and many different Russian aircraft types.
1975 saw Bob move north to Edinburgh to complete his training as an approach radar controller, and he has remained there ever since, becoming a watch manager in 1991. His 45 years at the burgeoning Scottish airport have been full of highlights.
He handled the first flight landing on the airport’s new runway 25 in 1977 – a British Airways Trident – and also cleared the first Concorde to land at Edinburgh in 1980, visiting the cockpit after landing to brief the pilots on departure procedures.
He also handled many flights with the Royal Family, and was on duty when the Pope landed at Edinburgh in 1982.
Looking back at his half century as a controller, Bob says that “whilst the job you’re doing hasn’t changed that much, the traffic levels have increased almost every year but then the tools at your disposal are much better.” He recalls when he first used radar, and then ground radar, and the advances that brought to air traffic management.
As Sandy Legget, General Manager of Air Navigations Solutions in Edinburgh, says: “Bob’s expertise, commitment and wonderful way of working with others are an inspiration to us all. He’s a father figure to many of our team who have grown in experience under his careful guidance during his long spell working in the Edinburgh Tower.”