My Job at SATS: I'm a Load Control Officer who makes sure the aircraft is safe and steady
Muhammad Jamal Mizuki Sihombing, Load Control Officer at SATS, has a piece of advice for all travellers: "Please be on time.”
It’s plain and simple advice, but it has more to it than just discouraging you from being fashionably late. Your timely arrival for your flight is both a courtesy and a game-changer.
Muhammad Jamal Mizuki Sihombing, Load Control Officer
Before your plane taxis down the runway at Changi Airport, a team is hard at work on the apron to make sure everything clicks into place. This crew includes ramp servicemen, baggage handlers, cargo assistants, and load control officers like Jamal.
What is load control
A department under SATS Apron Services, Load Control is tasked to calculate passenger and cargo weight distribution. Jamal simplifies it, “We determine the weight that can be safely placed in each cargo compartment and prepare the load sheet used by the loading team and flight crew.”
Read also: I’m the second pair of eyes at the ramp
Airlines rely on Load Control Officers’ expertise in correct loading processes, handling dangerous goods, and ensuring aircraft’s structural weights stay within safety parameters. And no, you don’t need to be a math or physics genius for this job. Jamal notes that they use advanced software specific to each airline for the calculations, although still employing the touch of human checks.
Coming from a background in System Engineering, Jamal didn’t exactly have “aviation expert” stamped into his resume. How did he end up joining SATS then, you ask. “It’s a bit of a story,” he chuckles. He saw his friend’s posts about her job at SATS, complete with aeroplanes in the background. “I love planes, so I got interested in her job,” Jamal recalls. His friend turned out to be a Load Control Officer, and soon, Jamal found himself in the same line of work.
A couple of years later, Jamal looks forward to going to work every day. His routine starts with checking the roster and sorting out tight flight gaps with the duty manager, then meticulously planning for each flight – all in a day’s work.
Jamal at his work desk, ready to check the day’s flight schedules
Becoming a Load Control Officer is not easy. Jamal underwent more than a month of classroom training and another month of on-the-job training with a mentor. “We were taught everything there is to know to make sure the aircraft load is just right before takeoff,” Jamal explains.
In the first few months of doing things solo, Jamal admits to getting extremely anxious, knowing that he deals with real flights, passengers, and lives. He just could not afford to make any mistakes. Over time, his anxiety dealing with the responsibility of aircraft safety has mellowed, thanks to the support of his colleagues. “Now, the jitters remain, but I’ve become more confident,” Jamal declares.
Why your timely arrival matters
Jamal’s job is not without its challenges. The biggest stressor for a Load Control Officer? Last-minute changes.
“Last-minute changes can compromise the safety of the flight. If there are a lot of no-show passengers, that messes with our trim settings for the flight, and we need to do some quick adjustments,” Jamal admits. This not only means recalculations for the Load Control Team but also extra efforts from the baggage personnel and ramp servicemen to unload and reload cargo – it’s no fun for anyone.
Hence, their plea for passengers to be on time is a request for cooperation. It’s not just about catching your flight; it’s about making their job – and your journey – a breeze.
Jamal with two of his colleagues in Load Control
A Load Control Officer’s role isn’t as simple as Jamal makes it look. It requires a unique set of skills: multitasking, effective communication, handling pressure, decisive decision-making, and careful attention to detail.
Given about 60 minutes to finish the aircraft’s loading sheet, Jamal juggles planning for multiple flights and addressing last-minute changes, all while ensuring everything is safe and precise.
Learning these skills took time, especially handling pressure, but through the help of his colleagues, Jamal has become more competent in his job. Now, he navigates last-minute changes with decisiveness, noting that making firm decisions is crucial in his role as a Load Control Officer.
Looking into the future, Jamal envisions himself mentoring new officers. “Hopefully, I’ll be in the position where I’ll be sharing my wisdom with the newbies. It’s like passing on the aviation torch,” he says.
Find Jamal's role interesting?