As Jersey’s airport heads for a £42million revamp, its first female director says that losing the heritage of the original terminal building is a price the island must pay to keep things running safely and smoothly when faced with poor weather conditions.
Jersey Airport Director Inez Bartolo explains that, whilst she's sympathetic to the concerns, the safety of planes landing in fog depends on the terminal’s facelift.
After a career with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) making sure that Britain’s airports are safe, Mrs Bartolo has joined Ports of Jersey at an important time, as the airport begins its own journey of significant development, which will begin in earnest early next year.
Express sat down with the woman who literally wrote the book on regulating airport safety to get her views on the challenges ahead and why she wants to see more women in aviation…
Pictured: The airport is heading for a multi-million pound revamp.
Rising up the ranks in the aviation industry, Inez is undoubtedly a trailblazer, not least because when she joined it three decades ago, it was largely a man’s world. But while she’s had to stand up for herself on many occasions, you quickly realise that she hasn’t traded in her calm, warm personality for a harder edge.
It’s because she’s a woman, rather than in spite of, that she’s succeeded. And her management style reflects this: good-natured and collegiate; listen and collaborate. It’s why she firmly believes that balance is everything in business.
It’s probably also because she’s worked her way from the bottom to the top. Along with many of her generation, Surrey-born Mrs Bartolo left school after her ‘O’ Levels to enter the world of work.
After a few small jobs, she joined the Gatwick-based finance team of Dan Air, that once significant British carrier that people in their 40s and above will remember, especially those who flew to and from Jersey in one of their rocket-like BAC 1-11s.
“Joining Dan Air was the start of my aviation journey. People who join the industry either leave quickly or stay forever, and I’m obviously in the latter category. Back then, Laker Airways was at the top of its game, routes were opening up across the globe and there was a real buzz in aviation. The old days of privilege were ending and now everyone had the opportunity to fly. I was really caught up in the beauty of this new era.”
After Dan Air’s demise, Mrs Bartolo joined the CAA and became part of its Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) team, an early pioneer of harmonised European regulation. Eventually the JAA moved to the Netherlands but Mrs Bartolo wanted to stay with the CAA so she moved to the authority’s aerodrome sector, becoming a safeguarding specialist.
Pictured: Mrs Bartolo has worked her way up the ranks in her field.
Around each airport there is an invisible safety zone that should be kept clear of obstacles so aircraft can land, take off and taxi safely. That’s obvious, you may think, but, of course, many airports have evolved over time, and aircraft have become bigger and faster. Jersey Airport, 82 years old, is a classic example: the original architect wasn’t thinking of A320s when he designed the terminal.
Mrs Bartolo was responsible for regulating this safety zone at all British airports, from Shetland to the Channel Islands. Not only that, but she literally wrote the book on the subject, which defined all the policies, then travelled around the world to deliver training on her internationally recognised best practice. Although her publication, titled CAP738, is unlikely to be an Amazon bestseller, it is still read by airport regulators across the globe as the ‘go-to’ reference for aerodrome safety.
“ICAO [the International Civil Aviation Organisation] has set the rules, but the rulebook doesn’t actually describe how to implement them. My job, and the policies I wrote, was to help people understand what the rules meant, why they were important and how to calculate whether an object is infringing on the limits. It was a role that I thoroughly enjoyed, and I also gained a deep knowledge of how aerodromes operate.
“The intention is obviously to remove as many of the infringing obstacles as possible but if one exists and you verify that it’s still safe to operate, there can then be subsequent restrictions. A relevant example is the kink in the Jersey taxiway around the 1937 building and the old Jersey Airlines hangar. That puts the runway and taxiway very close together, which is actually non-compliant. When the visibility is low, we have to sterilise that taxiway; get rid of the kink, and the Airport runs more safely and efficiently in poor weather.”
Mrs Bartolo has sympathy for those who highlight the history and heritage of the original building.
“I understand their calls completely, but I also understand the importance of an airport to its community, especially on an island. People here can’t transfer to Jersey South or North; this is all we have. For me, and for most islanders, I imagine, fog is a real problem.
“Here, we have what is known as a Category One approach, which allows aircraft to descend to a certain height. If a pilot doesn’t have the visual cues, such as the approach and runway lights, they have to go around or divert back. I want to move Jersey to Category Two, and things like straightening the taxiway out is necessary to make that happen. When we achieve that status, aircraft will be able to descend safely in lower visibility than they can now.
“There are other things we need to do, such as improve the approach lighting on 08 [the western end of the runway] and the aerodrome ground lighting. Together with the Instrument Landing System, these improved visual cues will mean that aircraft can come lower before the flight crew have to make a decision on whether they land or not in low visibility.”
Pictured: Mrs Bartolo is the first female director of the Jersey Airport.
Although she has never worked for an airport, she feels that coming to Jersey as Airport Director was a natural step.
“During my time at the CAA, I headed up the aerodrome sector with responsibility for 138 UK airports, and before that I was an aerodrome inspector, which meant I went out to the airfields, and one of my airports was Jersey. It was always a pleasure to come here and audit the airport. The great teamwork that goes on today was clearly evident in those days, so I knew I would be working alongside some great people.
“It was a challenge to leave the CAA after working for them for 28 years and reaching quite a senior management role. I was proud of what I’d achieved, as a professional but also as a woman. It was also difficult to leave my two grown-up girls behind, and also my dogs. My daughters love living in London so I couldn’t entice them over here, but that’s understandable, especially as one of them is actually now working at the CAA as an inspector!”
Although Mrs Bartolo unquestionably has the skills and experience to do her job, one can’t escape the fact that she is Jersey Airport’s first female director.
“In my early days at the CAA, it was a struggle because I was a woman in a man’s world. However, I’m really glad to say that that changed during my career to the point that the CAA has had a female Group Director. The culture has changed, and they are now one of the most forward-thinking, diverse and inclusive organisations I can think of. Now, women thread throughout the CAA at all levels, including senior management.
“I think the will was always there because the CAA nurtured and developed me and trusted me with senior management; it was just a man’s world for a long time. And the CAA also understand now that you can’t wait to people to start a career in aviation, you have to go out and appeal to potential recruits at school. That is something I’m keen to introduce here.
“At Ports of Jersey now, we have roughly a 70/30 split, male to female. We provide the opportunities for women to come up through the ranks but I’m not sure women empower themselves to do so. There were times in the past when I had to be quite brazen and outspoken to get where I needed to be and be heard. I want to empower everybody, and particularly women, to strive to reach their goals, regardless of how difficult it appears to be.
"I have signed up Ports of Jersey to Women in Aviation, which is a UK charter. Many of the airlines and airports are signatories, and Jersey is too. It means we clearly send out the message to women that we’re here for you and we want you to join us on our journey. I’d especially love to encourage more female engineers here, which is another traditionally male world.
Pictured: "I want to empower everybody, and particularly women, to strive to reach their goals, regardless of how difficult it appears to be."
“Although we want to attract talent regardless of gender, I’d go as far as to say that women bring a slightly different perspective to things. I’d struggle to define exactly what that is, but I’d suggest it’s around empathy, and listening and seeing different sides to things. That is complementary to what men bring to the equation so if you get the balance right, it becomes a holistic and powerful model.”
Mrs Bartolo arrives at the Airport at a time of significant change. As part of the £42m ‘Future Airport Project’, years of work are about to start that will result in the arrivals hall being moved into the existing large terminal building, with departures and security moving up to a mezzanine floor; the existing arrivals hall, 1937 building and the old Jersey Airlines hangar will come down; that taxiway will be straightened; and the long pier out to aircraft will be rebuilt. And lots more besides.
The first big change people will notice is alterations to the traffic flow outside the terminal.
“I’m very excited to be part of the plans, especially as they’re close to reaching maturity. We’re changing the forecourt because we need to establish a 30m exclusion zone outside the terminal for security purposes. We are an international airport and we need to be part of that wider safety culture. It’s going improve to what currently exists: there won’t be any pedestrian crossings, for instance, and it’s going to make the journey faster and smoother.”
As Airport Director, Mrs Bartolo’s is ultimately responsible for safety in and around the airfield, which includes Air Traffic Control and the CI Control Zone [an 8,100 sq mile chunk of airspace up to 19,500 feet that Jersey has responsibility for], the Airport Fire and Rescue Service, the runway, taxiways and all the electronic gizmos that keep planes, and us, flying safely.
She’s not the only new face at the Airport either. Ports of Jersey has a new CEO in Matthew Thomas and there have been other shifts at the top following the recent retirement of Commercial Director Myra Shacklady.
“It’s been a few years since incorporation so we’re now able to sit down and have a proper think about the future. Alongside all the future airport plans, we’re asking ourselves: “Where are we going to go with route development?” recognising that aircraft are getting larger, they are getting more efficient, and airports will have to be more environmentally friendly. We have to be prepared for that. My job is to make sure that, as these changes come through, we can not only accommodate these new aircraft but also develop the routes that islanders and visitors want.
“I think we provide a really good service at the moment and most flights, especially to and from London, are pretty full. I think the community is well served but that’s not to say we can’t look for more opportunities, possibly in Europe. We have charter operations to Tenerife, Majorca and other places but we could have more scheduled services."
But with the States committed to make the island carbon neutral by 2030, isn’t airport and route expansion flying in the face of this pledge?
“We actually have a good carbon story to tell, but we perhaps need to do more work to share it. Anyone who has flown through Gatwick knows you can get on your aircraft, push back and then spend half an hour taxiing before take-off. We don’t do that here: from push back to the end of the runway takes three minutes. So already, our emissions are a lot lower because of our footprint.
"And we also don’t push back aircraft until the runway is ready for them. We also have something called ‘continuous descent’. Again, using Gatwick as an example, when you approach there, your aircraft will often have to hold in a stack and then its descent will be staggered, like a staircase. That whole process uses up a lot of fuel. Here, the approach is one gradual descent. That means aircraft burn a lot less fuel, which the airlines like too.
“Aircrafts are also getting bigger to reduce the carbon per passenger footprint so we need to make sure we do all we can to accommodate them.”
It hasn’t taken long for Mrs Bartolo to fall in love with Jersey and its people, and the island is unequivocally ‘home’. “I’ll go into gush mode, if I’m not careful,” she jokes. She also values its community spirit and the ability for ordinary islanders to have a voice. “I’ll probably get myself into trouble, but that spirit isn’t as evident in the UK these days.”
Clearly, the team Mrs Bartolo leads is rarely out of her mind. Combined with her calm approach, it bodes well for us all as the airport – and passengers - prepare for years of significant change.
Pictures: Inez Bartolo at the airport by Gary Grimshaw.
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