On Tuesday, Rachel and I ventured the other side of the airfield fence at Gatwick, to learn about the important work of the airside operatives; an integral team at the airport which we do not often get to meet. It was a pretty early start, shuttling over to the airside operations building in order to catch the night shift hand-over. We met in the operations briefing room and gave a presentation to the team, explaining our work and the biodiversity project at Gatwick.
We spoke about which species of conservation concern can be found at the aerodrome, and how our staff volunteering programme has grown over the past 4 years. We also explained how the Gatwick Greenspace Partnership helps Gatwick to manage its land-side biodiversity areas without impacting any operations and maintaining a safe environment for people and wildlife.
The talk seemed to be well received, and for the remainder of the morning we accompanied the bird dispersal unit on their rounds in the yellow ‘ops vehicle’, Leader 5. These guys know the airfield and its operational routines like the back of their hand, and they demonstrated the responsible ways they help birds and aircraft avoid conflict.
A pause at the western end of the taxiway
We learned in particular about the 'Scarecrow' bird dispersal system, which plays species-specific sounds to scare birds away from operational areas. This has been a valuable experience for Rachel and I, to understand the work of airside operations and the management of the airfield habitat.
The other great result is that we have been invited back to give further talks to airside teams about conserving Gatwick’s biodiversity, and to offer further opportunities for staff and their families to get involved.
Many thanks to Helen, Katie, Simon and all the Black Watch team for their warm and friendly reception.