My Job at SATS: I ensure flights get off to a safe start

My Job at SATS: I ensure flights get off to a safe start

Every day at work, Salimah binte Adam easily clocks more than 10,000 steps.

This may seem tiring to some but to Salimah, being on her feet throughout the day is the greatest perk of her job as a Ground Commander. “I can really walk from one end of the airport to the other – and back!” she exclaims.

She even relishes the fact that the job requires her to be outdoors rain or shine. “I’m a rugged woman,” she says candidly. “I love the outdoors!”

But she added just one caveat – “sunscreen and moisturiser are a must” – before breaking out in a hearty laugh.

Ensuring safety on all fronts

As a Ground Commander, Salimah’s primary role is to ensure that all aircraft-related activities done on the apron ­– the area of the airport where all aircrafts are parked, unloaded or loaded, refuelled, boarded and maintained – are carried out safely.

girl standing at changi airport with safety vest

Before her colleagues from other departments get to work on the aircraft, she conducts a safety briefing for them and reminds them to observe the relevant safety protocols.

Then, armed with the necessary equipment – namely her vest, walkie-talkie, ear plugs and safety shoes – she heads out onto the apron with them and stands at the nose of the aircraft, where she has a comprehensive view of all the activities that are going on.

As the eyes and ears of the SATS Integrated Operations Command (SIOC), she monitors all the ongoing apron activities and communicates with the Flight Controllers stationed there on the status of flights on the ground.

From her vantage point, she also looks out for the safety of those working. “Don’t forget your gloves! Remember not to remove the lock first! Wear your hard hats!” she reminds them cheerily.

While most of those she works with have more experience than her, she does not feel self-conscious giving them such reminders, even though she sometimes has to do so firmly.

This is because she knows that safety, one of SATS’ core values, is of utmost importance. Her ultimate goal is to make sure these airside activities occur as uneventfully as possible.

“To ensure on-time performance, we Ground Commanders need to help other departments and be a team player to dispatch a flight successfully without any incident,” she explains.

A culture of love and unity

When Salimah first joined SATS seven years ago, it was the warmth of her colleagues and the culture of family that convinced her this was somewhere she wanted to be for the long term.

As she took on different roles – first as a Customer Service Agent, then handling cargo and now a Ground Commander – she experienced how this sense of community has remained the same.

Even though she is currently one of a few women in her department, she does not feel out of place. Instead, she feels like she’s part of the family. “I definitely feel loved, like I’m being shown respect and care,” she says. “I believe that showing love is the best way to build a workplace culture of trust and unity.”

Traits that will help you go far

In the three months that she has been a Ground Commander, Salimah has learnt that communicating effectively is key.

“Details are very important but you also have to be short and simple,” she advises, adding that you need to be able to both give and receive simple pieces of information well.    

For example, if the flight is waiting, Salimah will have to communicate clearly and succinctly by saying: “Take note: there are three pieces of baggage. Flight number 1234 will arrive at the bay at this timing.”

Another important skill to have as a Ground Commander is to be able to work well under pressure.

According to Salimah, the 10 minutes before the flight leaves the bay is the most critical time period. “In 10 minutes, anything can happen. The Passenger Services team might find that the flight is short of passengers. There could be shortage of baggage containers. There could be shortage of transporters. There could be shortage of personnel. So, I have to be very quick and make sure everyone on the tarmac adapts to any changes,” she explains.

She recalls her first solo flight without her mentor when she had to offload a passenger and make amendments to the load sheet, which contains all the information of who and what is on the aircraft.

“I was quite worried and afraid that I would make a mistake,” she shares. But she kept her cool and did her best, and the flight took off without incident. Today, she is more confident than ever of what she does.

Encouraging others to join her as a Ground Commander at SATS, even if it may not be something they are familiar with, she says: “We have to venture out of our comfort zones to build the career that we want!”