Every day is different, yet challenging for Ops Controller Rhian Barnes

If you live and breathe in the helicopter ops world, then you quickly learn to adapt to changing conditions such as weather and client changes that may disrupt your plans for upcoming flights. It is a fast-paced world and can often be challenging and stressful, but it is precisely these elements that Bristow operations controllers thrive on that make everything come together for a flight. They may make the planning look easy, when it is not, and it is all in the details and execution, which needs to be flawless.

Bristow Operations Controller Rhian Barnes at our base in Aberdeen shares her secrets of success, advice and more about herself in the fast-paced (and exciting) operations world of helicopters.

Talk about your role at Bristow and what you are currently working on?

My current role is an Ops Controller; I have been in this role for just over two years having previously worked as a passenger services officer for two years starting back in 2012 and then progressed to a senior passenger services officer in 2014 for five years. My role in ops is to keep the daily flying program running on time (or as close too), liaising with the clients, monitoring the weather, shuffling the program around to accommodate any issues/client requests, keep the crews up to date and generally keep everyone, internal and external, in the loop.

What is a recent success you’re particularly proud of?

I recently received some lovely feedback from one of our clients on how I handled a challenging situation over a weekend shift. I had decisions to make very quickly and some of which proactively ahead of the client to ensure all their passengers were to get back to Aberdeen from Sumburgh via a fixed wing and a helicopter before closing at Sumburgh with an extension already in place.

What in your background prepared you for this assignment?

I think trusting your intuition and gut prepares you for these scenarios and its being able to confidently go ahead with them. I have faced some pretty challenging situations personally over the years and think these also set you up to react swiftly and efficiently when these issues/challenges occur, and I would somewhat say I thrive under those pressures.

What do you find challenging about your work? How do you overcome these challenges?

I love how every shift is different with this role, similar situations arise but never completely the same, you never know what you're coming into day-to-day, and I enjoy being kept on my toes. This alone keeps my role challenging, and I feel this is a role that you'd never stop learning in as there are so many changing factors. Fortunately, we have a great ops team in Aberdeen so you've always another set of eyes to discuss options/decisions with and I think having a good rapport with the crew and engineers also helps, as ultimately, we all want to come in and do our jobs and deliver the program as seamlessly as possible.

What is the best (or worst) advise you ever received?

Not best advice as such but a favorite quote of mine would be "life is for living not for existing," and I also like and find truth in the saying "The grass isn't always greener, it's green where you water it."

Who inspires you (Work, personal and/or historical)?

My auntie inspires me, she has always been my rock in life, and I hope to be as amazing as she is in supporting my own nieces/nephews in the future along with her having a strong working ethic. 

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I enjoy getting outdoors, hill walking, paddleboarding and generally spending time away from the hustle and bustle! 

What is it that most people don’t know about you?

I briefly left the company for six months in 2019 to explore a completely different career in global payroll. I had come to a point of not knowing what I wanted to do and was given an opportunity to try a different path, thankfully, having a supportive manager (Louise Hall) who encouraged me to pursue this new challenge (although secretly having an inkling I'd be back soon enough!).

Not long after starting my new role I quickly realized I missed the fast-paced environment, the team of people I'd worked with and to be honest helicopters in general. Fortunately, for me, I have always been keen to express my interest in other departments so had been up in ops not long before I left to see what the role entailed, it couldn't have been timed better in that my now current role was available, and I have never looked back since. I now know I just needed to be in a different role to challenge me. I don't regret leaving for those six months because I learned new skills in an industry I'd never worked in, but realized where I want to be with my career, and it led me to where I am now.

What advice do you have for others pursuing a career in your field? i.e., your secret of success.

My one piece of advice would be to not get stuck. Take any opportunities that come your way! I have found that to be one of the biggest reasons I have got to where I am because I am keen to learn and although I don't possess the skills of say an engineer or pilot - showing them that small piece of interest and curiosity gains you respect and little pieces of knowledge you didn't have before, it may open up doors you didn't foresee.