Chris Jeeves, Head of Strategy and Performance, Eurocontrol Maastricht Upper Area Control Centre (MUAC) and member of the Air Traffic Management Advisory Panel at the RAeS

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Introduction

Eurocontrol is an intergovernmental organisation that was established in the 1960s to consolidate Air Traffic Management in Europe. Today there are 41 member states and four sites; including the headquarters in Brussels, an R&D centre in Paris, a training school in Luxembourg and the Air Traffic Control Centre in Maastricht, the Netherlands (where I’m based). Eurocontrol MUAC provides a cross-border service, integrating both civil and military traffic across the Benelux and north-west Germany, to maximise efficiency in the network.

Background

Following on from completing a degree in Physics at Imperial College, London, I went to train as an air traffic controller at MUAC. I’ve always had a keen interest in aviation and also have a PPL which gave me a useful background level of knowledge during my training. I soon become responsible for the unit training plans, compliance and other projects and, after several years in operations management (where I did everything from activity prioritisation, to project management to performance improvement), I took on my current role roughly one year ago.

Typical Day

My role now is very broad and focusses on defining the overall strategy for the control centre. Part of this includes helping to manage the relationship with the various ministries of the Four States for which we provide our services. I am responsible for performance monitoring, as well as the budget and finance. As such, my days are a mixture of meetings with the team and with external stakeholders, reading papers, focusing on budgets, and answering the hard questions and/or firefighting the hot topics that crop up.

Tips for new entrants into the sector

It is really beneficial that you have a good understanding of the sector you wish to work in. Having a keen interest in flying or some other aspect of aviation helps a lot. After that, I think that I look for someone with a lot of enthusiasm and the ability to communicate well. Everything else you can train for! Eurocontrol MUAC is a very international and diverse work environment. One of the great things for me is that we can hire from any of the 41 Member States which means that I work with over 30 nationalities on a day-to-day basis. This creates and atmosphere of like-minded people who are committed the success of the organisation.

Challenges/most exciting parts of the role

Eurocontrol MUAC is in a unique position in the aviation sector as we can work and interact with both civil and military partners. Every day I get to tackle interesting challenges, particularly involving the politics that surround the sector. This is a very exciting aspect of my role as I and the team can then work out a solution to a problem and add value for the organisation and the key stakeholders.

The overriding topic currently is, of course, Covid-19. There is now a huge financial gap in the system, as airlines and States struggle to work out how to keep the sector functioning during the downturn. My main challenge is to carefully scrutinise our costs right now, while we have to still deliver the service, and also keep an eye on our future performance. Stopping the innovations and development is not an option! 2018/2019 saw a real capacity crunch within European airspace and we need to be ready for the upturn in traffic when it comes.

Give it a try!

My final piece of advice if you have passion for this sector, is simply to go for it and give it a try. My personal experience is that hands-on involvement is the key; the more you try, the more chances you have to move your career in the direction you want to go. My current role is very international, I come across so many different languages and cultures and learn so much from the colleagues. Unconsciously this builds your confidence and might steer you in a direction that you may not have even thought of. That truly motivates me within my career!

Favourite Aircraft

Fokker 50 – mainly because it runs the service on my favourite route between Antwerp and London City Airport!

Aerostories #Pilots #Engineering #Operations

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