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Jonathan Smith, Senior Airport Planner, Atkins


Senior Airport Planner

My role in Atkins
I am a Senior Airport Planner in the Infrastructure Airports Team. This encompasses working with airport clients and aircraft operators to develop new facilities or reconfigure existing ones; we do this with civilian, military and government clients and within a demanding regulatory environment.
The projects involve airfield developments such as runway, taxiway/apron improvements and terminals, upgrading capacity for new aircraft types or facilities for helicopters and unmanned aircraft. Our client base is worldwide so can involve the largest of airports to bespoke operations and landing facilities tied to other infrastructure such as nuclear power stations, LNG platforms or inner-city locations. The variety is a big attraction and whilst some projects are long term, others can be done quickly to provide rapid change and business expansion.
Having worked in aviation for my whole career with airline handling, airlines and airport authorities, it is good to be able to mix this experience with the different demands of military aviation when working with the RAF as a reservist.

My role in the Reserves
I am currently a Flight Sergeant Intelligence Analyst (Imagery) and targeteer with the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, having previously served with the TA in the early 1980’s in a commissioned role with the Royal Armoured Corps. I joined the RAF in 2000 and have been mobilised three times for Iraq, Libya and Syria/Iraq. I have specialised in tactical reconnaissance with the fast jet force and have exclusively worked on live operations throughout my career and constantly with my regular counterparts, which is unusual for many reservist roles. I also work at the national geospatial centre and with unmanned aircraft units.

Although we do a minimum of a weekend a month and 15 days continuous working, I do many more days as the work and training demands. The crossover between what I do with Atkins and the RAF is immense, plus what I do in the RAF aids planning at the highest military and government levels. The Forces’ man management training is second to none and it is interesting to see how many civilian companies are using the facility now. Having gone through all the training course levels in the RAF, I believe this equips you for all situations and dovetails with what I received working with airlines and airports. The Forces push you to do things you may back away from normally and shows you can do far more than you imagined both physically and mentally.

I have had many opportunities to visit other countries and work with other nations’ forces which has revealed how highly ours are regarded, but also what is common between all of us and how easily national barriers can fall away in shared experience. Teamwork is essential and working with younger people in regular service also enables the opportunity to mentor and offer experience which in the intelligence world is vital to understanding the situation and possible outcomes.

Working with aircraft, sensors and weapon systems provides hands on experience of technological development and my role allows me to compare these things with those of our allies and protagonists which can also provide a steer as to the trends in aviation technology that can impact on work with Atkins, not least in unmanned operation.

Atkins’ Approach to the Reserves
Fulfilling the requirements of a gold-standard employer under the Armed Forces Covenant has been useful in supporting commitment. The ten days training allowance enables the continuous training requirement to be satisfied more easily and having a defined published policy is welcomed by my RAF headquarters in smoothening the administrative burden.

As you progress up the promotional ladder in the Forces so the administration required increases and responsibility for your subordinates’ futures, there is a lot of commonality in the annual reporting process with Atkins. Balancing the RAF, private and work time is challenging, but part of the commitment.

What would you say to somebody interested in joining the Reserves
Take the step, as the gains outweigh the losses enormously. The training is comprehensive and these days much more aligned with the regulars, so there is little difference. What a regular has in service, you have in experience. All the opportunities to do adventurous training or expeditions around the world are available to you and learning a whole new set of skills just might boost your civilian career further than you thought. It is also nationally valuable work and is recognised formally so the commitment is appreciated and rewarded.

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