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East Midlands Airport duty manager from Stamford gives the lowdown on his role

James Parrish, duty manager at East Midlands Airport. By The Burton Mail
James Parrish, duty manager at East Midlands Airport. By The Burton Mail

Emergency landings and medical emergencies are just some of the dramatic situations which an airport manager from Stamford could be faced with every day.

East Midlands Airport sees millions of passengers pass through its doors each year and making sure it runs smoothly is James Parrish, who at 29 is the youngest duty manager in the company, which is owned by Manchester Airports Group.

James oversees everything from car parks to ground handlers and is responsible for around 150 staff on each shift.

Each day at the airport starts with a huddle, where James will meet with managers from different departments such as police and fire, where they will discuss issues like delayed flights, or ice on the runway and come up with a plan of action.

James’ typical duties on each shift can vary from coordinating medical assistance for somebody who has had a heart attack, to communicating messages to passengers about flight delays

He said: “One of the great things about the role is that not everyday is the same. You could be dealing with a security incident, you could be dealing with an aircraft emergency or issues with the runway. The airport manager is responsible for just about anything you can think of.”

James said the key to handling the pressure and responsibility of his job is being organised and composed.

He said: “Stress is not an excuse, if you need help you need to speak up and say you need that support. A lot of people hold it in and then suddenly it explodes.”

One of his most memorable days at the airport was when he had to help co-ordinate a crisis plan when a cargo plane made an emergency landing after smoke was discovered in the cabin.

He said: “Police and fire were sent to the rendevous point and the aircraft landed safely.

“It was surrounded by fire engines [on the runway].

“Firemen went into the aircraft and discovered the exhaust valve [which releases burned gas] was loose.”

Situations like this are concerning but also exciting for James.

“When that happens there is that adrenaline rush but you want the best possible outcome there can be,” he said.

The Christmas period brings it own challenges to the airport such as preventing ice on the runway.

“We can’t put grit down as it can break engines so we put a liquid down which stops the runway from freezing,” James explained.

“We also have snow plough vehicles clearing snow off the runway to make sure that it is safe for the plane to land.”

The type of passengers visiting the airport over the festive period are also very different to other times of the year

James said: “A lot of people forget it is not just about going on holiday. Some people may have passed away abroad and somebody is going to collect the body.”

He added that staff try to be sympathetic to these passengers.

James, who is originally from London, started out his working life a world away from aviation as a lifeguard in a leisure centre in 2006.

He then managed health clubs before being headhunted on professional networking website LinkedIn by Heathrow Airport, who took him on as a passenger experience manager.

He then had a spell as a security manager at Stanstead Airport before becoming a manager for Lidl.

But he yearned to work back in the aviation industry and landed at East Midlands Airport in 2016 .

James is loving his role and thinks airport life suits him well.

“Aviation is brilliant, it is so diverse,” James said.

James has always been highly ambitious and driven and he thinks this has helped him rise to such a senior role despite not having a university degree.

He said: “I never went to further education or had a degree or anything. It’s been about being able to stick at the job I am doing and proving I am worthy of it.”

Although he loves his job, by next summer he will be deciding if he wants to take on a different role at the company.

James said: “I want to broaden my knowledge, have skills to undertake different job roles and get that job satisfaction.

“I have been in the job 16 months now, after two years I would have broadened my skills and will be looking at what my next job role looks like.”

James moved to Stamford last year with his fiancée, Laura Bayliss, who works at Stanstead Airport as a security manager.

The pair wanted to find a place to live which was a commutable distance to work for them both.

After visiting the town they were taken in by its charm and moved into a home on the Rutland Heights estate.

He said: “For both of us we knew this was the place.”

James said they are feeling settled in Stamford and loving the idyllic way of life in the town.

He said: “We have three pugs, I take them out for walks, you can’t go anywhere here because you are constantly talking to your neighbours. It is nice - it is a completely different way of life.”

And James would love to be able to contribute to the town he has fallen in love with by applying to be a town councillor, should a vacancy arise.

He said: “I am open, I can talk to anyone and am quite honest. If somebody complains to me I am not going to give them false promises.

“People respect you a lot more if you tell the truth.

“Honesty is always the best policy.”


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