Future Airport: How long have you been an apron controller?

Dieter Strehl: For 31 years, all at Munich Airport. I started in 1980 at Munich’s old airport; I’m now focusing on management, so I only spend around 30% of my time on apron control. I love working in this department when I get the chance; if someone is ill I’ll happily go up (in the tower) and cover them.

“During the day, we have 32 controllers plus four shift leaders and the management team.”

FA: What is your daily routine?

DS: On an average day we have about 1,100 or 1,200 movements, but within a restricted time. At night, restriction starts from 10pm and runs through to 5am. In tower one there are not so many movements, whereas in tower two, we have Lufthansa Star Alliance, which accounts for about two thirds of the traffic.

During the day, we have 32 controllers plus four shift leaders and the management team, but on the night shift there is just one person in each tower.

An apron controller works eight-and-a-half hour shifts, working; five days on duty and three days off. Normally we change positions after two hours, and the controller swaps with the assistant.

FA: What does your job entail?

DS: We have two towers at Munich Airport. The large one, which is 78m high, houses weather services Germany and apron control. This has two people from apron control: the controller and the controller’s assistant. In the second tower there are four people: two controllers and two assistants.

We need two towers because we cannot see the whole airport from one tower. The first tower covers apron 1 and the maintenance areas, and the second tower has two people working on apron 2 and two people working on apron 3.

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“On an average day, Munich has about 1,100 or 1,200 movements.”

The bridges, which are the points of entry onto the apron from the runways, are where we take over. The pilot is passed by ATC to our radio frequency, and we are responsible for guiding the aircraft from the entry points to their parking positions. We do exactly the same from the parking positions to the ground controller.

FA: What is your favourite part of the job?

DS: I do prefer it when there are no delays. It’s a bit like a computer game. I also like the view from the tower, especially when you can see the Alps.

Other elements of the job I enjoy are talking to the pilots and problem solving. You would think that every day would be the same because of the scheduled flights, but no day or no hour is ever the same.

FA: And your least favourite?

DS: If you have little work on the time goes very slowly. For example, we recently had a four-day strike with Lufthansa pilots, and then there was the ash cloud. At times like that you sit around with not a lot to do. When you have plenty to do, the time always goes much quicker.