‘Living the dream’: From plane spotter to Gatwick air traffic controller

Aircraft enthusiast Tom Singfield has been ‘living the dream’ since he first became a plane spotter back in the 60s.

Monday, 18th March 2019, 4:58 pm
Updated Monday, 18th March 2019, 5:01 pm
Tom Singfield SUS-190318-154543001

”I’ve always had a fascination with aircraft,” says Tom. “I used to hitch-hike from Morden to Gatwick to look at the planes. They were iconic days.”

Tom went on to work at Gatwick as an air traffic controller until he retired from his post in 2005. But his passion for airliners lived on and remains to this day.

Now a writer and aviation historian, Horsham-resident Tom has just written a new aviation book - Classic Gatwick Propliners - which is the result of more than 30 years of research.

It is, says Tom, “a celebration of all the wonderful propeller-driven airliner types, civil and military, that operated from Gatwick for the first 20 years after its re-opening as London’s second major airport in


And, he says, the fully-illustrated book “will remind readers of days when air travel was very different to today’s airport sausage machine. Visitors to our local airport were actually welcomed and were able to watch the airport activities from spectator decks.”

Gatwick originally opened as a grass airfield in 1930 and was important during the Second World War as a fighter and maintenance base. It expanded in the early 50s with a new terminal building and became the first airport in the world with a rail link straight into the airport.

Passenger numbers have since boomed from around 186,000 a year in 1959 until more than 46 million today.

“Gatwick has always been such an important airport to me,” says Tom, “from being a spotter and then getting my ideal job as an air traffic controller there. The new book is a real history of Gatwick, about the movements, the buildings and the experience of flying there.”

Tom spends much of his time now travelling the world with wife Maggie. “Wherever I go I try to fly in different aircraft types - I’ve now travelled in 170 different types in over 70 countries, including Libya and North Korea.”

The 144-page Classic Gatwick Propliners book is published by The History Press and retails at £20. It will be formally launched at the LGW2019 International Aviation Enthusiasts Fair at K2 Crawley on April 14.