Sometimes you just meet someone and think, wow, you have a great job! Then you find out how interesting the journey was. That’s exactly how it went when Aviation Wales met our resident AVGEEK, Kath Fisher.
After leaving school Kath joined the University of London Air Squadron before joining the Royal Air Force (RAF) as an Air Traffic Control Officer in 1999.
“When they asked me if I wanted a flying scholarship I said ‘a what? To actually fly myself?’ I had resigned myself to being an air traffic controller, not to ever fly but said ‘In for a penny, in for a pound, why not?’ – I had never been an Air Cadet or ever flown in a light aircraft but as soon as I did, I loved it, going solo at the age of 17, 6 days (and 9hrs) after my first ever flight”
Kath then did what any normal young girl would do, go on holiday. By ‘go on holiday’ we mean hire a plane and go flying!
Kath and some friends flew out to Miami, hired a 2 x 4 seater Cessna light aircraft and flew up and down the east cost of the US from Miami to the Bahamas, Philadelphia, New York, Memphis, Orlando and back to Miami, also gaining a sea plane rating along the way. Their journey was much to the bemusement of the aircraft owner who perhaps didn’t realise how young the group were when they agreed on the rental!
“When my fellow pilot Mark and I first walked into the flying club in Miami aged 19 and 20, the looks on their faces was hilarious. They told us (when we returned the aircraft safely at the end of the trip) they couldn’t believe how young we were and were regretting their decision. But by then we had both had military flying training on the Bulldog at our respective University Air Squadrons and thanks to that, our skills, checks and airmanship were pretty good and the American instructors saw that.”
Following her American adventure, Kath joined RAF Cranwell for Initial Officer Training with the Royal Air Force (RAF) before completing her Air Traffic Control training at RAF Shawbury.
After leaving the RAF in 2005, Kath retrained as a close protection officer and acted as a bodyguard to the rich, famous and wealthy, including a spell protecting Maria Sharapova, before joining South Wales Police in 2008.
After patrolling the streets of Barry for 5 years, Kath needed a fresh challenge and she found that with the National Police Air Service (NPAS) who had recently taken control of Police Air Support across the UK.
Her flying and air traffic control experience put her in pole position for the role and Kath has now been one of the Tactical Flight Officers at NPAS St Athan since 2014.
Tactical Flight Officers (TFOs) are an integral part of the flying team operating cameras and communicating with ground teams to hunt criminals, locate evidence or find missing/vulnerable people.
“I enjoyed telling Pilots where to go and what to do!! That continues today as I do that in the Police Helicopter”
Based at MOD St Athan, NPAS operates a Eurocopter EC-135 aircraft and covers Wales and the South West of England. The EC-135 is capable of cruising speeds around the 120mph mark allowing it to reach incidents quickly.
Kath and the team work in 12 hour shifts on a 4 days on, 4 days off system during which they see everything from burglaries and stolen cars to murders and vulnerable mental health patients. They often see some odd things and recently spotted what others have called a “UFO” over the Bristol Channel – a video that has gone viral across the world!
Kath continues to explore her passion for aviation flying during her time off and is often seen at Horizon flying club, also at St Athan. In addition to flying, Kath is a RNLI volunteer on the lifeboat crew at Penarth and is also keen runner often taking part in events that would make most of us cry just by filling out the application form!