Furloughed air traffic controller volunteers with London Ambulance Service

14 July 2020

Student air traffic controller, Stuart Keaney is volunteering with London Ambulance Service while on furlough from NATS.

Stuart worked as an Emergency Medical Technician before starting his air traffic control training. Now on furlough due to the impact of Covid-19, he has volunteered to go back and support paramedics on the front line responding to emergency calls in London.

It’s a far cry from his usual job at NATS where he is training to be an air traffic controller at Swanwick Control Centre, managing some of the busiest and most complex airspace in Europe.

Before joining NATS in 2018, Stuart worked in the ambulance service for three years. He had to complete nine days of classroom-based training before re-joining as a full working technician in April.

Stuart said: “Seeing the effects of Covid-19 first-hand has been eye opening and I would say to anyone, please follow the Government’s advice.

“We have to be really strict about PPE and ensure the people driving the ambulance are kept separate from the back. Some of the drivers supporting our crew are from the London Fire Brigade so that we can have more hands-on deck in the back.”

As the number of flights across the UK has dropped dramatically, many NATS employees have been put on extended periods of furlough.

He continued: “It took a while to settle in but after a while all the technical terms from ambulance work come back, including all the medical acronyms; I just have to remember not to confuse them with the air traffic control ones!

“I love this job and the crews do great work, but I’m also really looking forward to returning to NATS soon.”










London Ambulance Service chief executive Garrett Emmerson said: “We are so grateful to the hundreds of volunteers who have stepped up and provided us with essential support during this challenging period.

“The dedication of volunteers, like Stuart, has ensured we can meet the unprecedented demand created by the virus and has helped us continue to deliver life-saving care to the patients who need us most.”

More than 900 volunteers have been recruited to help  London Ambulance Service respond to patients during the unprecedented challenge of the coronavirus, including 300 London Fire Brigade volunteers.

If you have previous medical experience and are interested in volunteering, take a look on their website here.

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