How does someone become a turnround manager?

I started at London Gatwick airport as a load control assistant, working for British Air Tours. Nowadays you need to be educated to A-level standard. You also need to have the right kind of personality to work alone and communicate with people. It's vital to be able to remain cool under pressure and you absolutely need a good sense of humour.

What are the key elements of your job?

We are responsible for the health and safety of all individuals boarding the aircraft. That includes establishing that the baggage is okay and sign for it, removing bags where the passenger does not travel. The eyes and ears of the ground team, we also meet flights and put the jetty on, as well as making sure the aircraft is chocked and safe to offload the passengers.

There is a limited time for turnaround and it is our job to facilitate the aircraft's departure - make sure that the fuel is there and that the cleaners and caterers have turned up and the baggage is going to plan. We constantly liaise with the cabin crew.

What are the most difficult duties you have?

If someone gets sick or dies on board, we have to call an ambulance. We meet the aircraft and co-ordinate with people and get them on the ambulance using a highloader if necessary - it is difficult to carry stretchers down steps safely. Or, if someone is misbehaving onboard we confront them and ask them to get off the aircraft. We have not had many problems like that: travellers know airlines do not mess about.

You are no longer responsible for load control. How does that work?

Our operations department at London Heathrow is responsible for load control. We still talk to them constantly. We have a new tool called the Trip system, which is essentially a digital pen that we use to update data from anywhere in the world.

We can send transmit figures without making a phone call and send information to the pilots for sign off. The final details can be sent to the flightdeck crew after pushback. They will not get airborne until they know that the figures are okay.

What kind of shift pattern do you work?

We do "early to mid" shifts for 10 days, and then we work 10 nights in a five on, three off pattern. You are allocated your line flights a week ahead, which can be up to five a day. That can be changed the day before or even on the day.

How has the job changed in your lifetime?

There is a greater emphasis on security, especially when accounting for all baggage. We have had training on how to handle difficult situations, such as having the confidence to challenge someone if necessary.

What has kept you in the job for 30 years?

We are a happy team. For a department that does not physically work together, the camaraderie is very good.

The role can be subject to high pressure, but it is one of the best ground jobs there is at the airport. There is always something going on.

Tim Hawkins - turnround manager at Gatwick for the past 30 years