Airservices pays homage to Scarlett – a guardian of the Australian sky

Scarlett is a highly skilled guardian of the Australian sky – part of our team of air traffic controllers, who are among the best in the world.

In the lead-up to International Women’s Day, Airservices is proudly championing the highly skilled women in our national team to help #BreakTheBias and showcase the many varied and rewarding opportunities available for women considering a career in aviation.

Catch up on previous profiles on our newsroom, including an interview with Leading Fire Fighter, Jen Hughes.

Meet Scarlett McNab, Air Traffic Control Check and Standardisation Supervisor

Scarlett is a highly skilled guardian of the Australian sky – part of our team of air traffic controllers, who are among the best in the world. Based in Melbourne, Scarlett helps control the flow of aircraft safely through the massive airspace over northern Western Australia, and a portion of the Indian Ocean. It’s an area that stretches from Antarctica to the Maldives and from Australia’s west coast, halfway to Africa. Someone who “loves to keep busy’”, Scarlett’s other vital roles include Check and Standardisation Supervisor, Shift Manager, Chief Warden and procedures development.

How did you achieve your current role?

I had my eye on this role when I started at Airservices in 2014 – the idea of working to continually enhance our standard of controlling really appealed to me.

I worked towards achieving this dream by first obtaining my internal training and assessment licenses. These qualifications gave me the practical skills and tools to conduct training in a live environment, while ensuring the safety of all involved. The other side of being recognised in this role, involves me constantly working to ensure that I set a good example to the group, with my practical skills, theory knowledge and professional conduct.

What inspires you? What do you love most about your job?

As a controller, I love coming to work every day and helping the public get from A to B. Being a part of their journey, no matter how small, gives me a sense of fulfillment and purpose. As the Check and Standardisation Supervisor, I love being able to work with my team to develop their competencies and work towards proficiency. Working with the newer members to get them fully trained, and pass their final exams and assessments gives me a sense of satisfaction as they achieve.

I also love that there is always more to do, I’m a person who loves being busy, so I have several additional duties/roles which I perform on the side, such as Chief Warden, Shift Manager and procedures and safety work/development. However, it’s equally true, that one of the best things about the job is that if you want to be able to completely disconnect at the end of the day, you can just be a controller who helps people to safely travel the skies. 

I also love that the variety of this airspace is massive, with seven different international agencies to work with, and the constant mining traffic in and out of Perth. This variety is one of the things that really keeps me engaged with my role.

How do you see women in aviation/your profession breaking the bias locally, nationally or internationally?
Every day, we see women break through biases and barriers to achieve their dreams. Airservices’ executive team is now 50 per cent female, which is a great example of top-down leadership, and shows women entering the profession and company, how far they can go.

What female role models have inspired you?
Growing up, I read a lot of history books, and I always gravitated to the strong, female leads. Eleanor of Aquitaine was an early role model, showing me that women have been fighting against their oppression for centuries. As I got older, my heroes became more personal, with my maternal grandmother becoming a great role model to me. She raised two children, while working full-time as a teacher and obtaining her Master of Fine Arts (unfortunately I did not inherit her artistic talent!).

What advice would you give women thinking about a career in aviation/at Airservices?
While it may sound simplistic, the best advice I can give, is just to give it a go. Until you try something, you do not learn whether you like it, if you can do it and if you have the personal strength required to fight through any barriers that may be presented to you. There are so many more aviation careers out there that I never anticipated, and so many opportunities. From airlines, air traffic control, engineering, or working with Australia’s developing space industry, there is a myriad of ways to enter the industry and only ever more opportunities being presented.

The other important thing is to surround yourself with people who respect you, your ambitions, and your skills. Having a solid support structure, both personally (family and friends) and professionally (role models and mentors) can make a big difference to your success.

How do you manage a work/life balance amid shift work?
Work/life balance is very important, given the 24/7 shift work that we do. The main things I do to keep my life in equilibrium include no work-related emails on my phone and ensuring that I have a run of at least four days off every couple of months to really disconnect from work and reconnect with any parts my life that have been ignored in favour of work.


About Airservices

Airservices Australia is responsible for the safe and efficient management of 11 per cent of the world’s airspace and the provision of aviation rescue fire fighting services at Australia’s busiest airports. We connect people with their world safely – linking family and friends, generating economic activity, creating jobs and facilitating trade and tourism.

Posted on: March 8, 2022

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