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Meera Ragoo: A Woman in Control

Sunday, March 22, 2015

By Bavina Sookdeo

Photo by Richard Cook

“I’VE COME TO BELIEVE that each of us has a personal calling that’s as unique as a fingerprint – and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard and also allowing the energy of the universe to lead you.”

    Oprah Winfrey 

This is exactly what Meera Ragoo has done. Ragoo, a senior Air Traffic Controller employed with Trinidad and Tobago Civil Aviation Authority (TTCAA) for 15 years, is an independent, strong and ambitious young woman, as asserted by TTCAA’s Director General, Ramesh Lutchmedial. 

The air traffic controller’s primary concern is safety. They ensure that all aboard an aircraft are safe and arrive at their destination with minimum delays. They manage the flow of aircraft into and out of airport airspace, guide pilots during take-off and landing, and monitor aircraft as they travel through the skies.

Ragoo performs her duties in an ultra-modern Air Traffic Control Centre and Tower, with advanced technology equipment for communication, navigation and surveillance. The Centre is responsible for separating hundreds of aircraft daily in 750,000 square miles of airspace that stretches half way across the Atlantic Ocean.

Ragoo holds an Air Traffic Control license with authorisation from the Director General of TTCAA to perform duties at Piarco International Airport (TTPP) and ANR Robinson International Airport (TTCP) Aerodrome, Approach, En-route and Oceanic Air Traffic Control. In addition, she is an Air Traffic Instructor in Approach Radar, En-route Radar and Oceanic Control. 

Why choose such a field? “I was always fascinated with aeroplanes and things to do with the air.” So why not become a pilot? “I’m afraid of heights,” she laughingly responded.

While she loves her job, she admits that there are several challenges. “Shift hours, as opposed to a regular day job, can be challenging at times when it comes to family and social life especially around Carnival time.” She explained that no one questions the orders of an Air Traffic Controller, and sometimes this authoritativeness may find its way into a relationship, causing challenges. “Do you know that the divorce rate is highest in this profession?” she asked. “Due to the shift work, and again that authoritativeness, one faces several challenges when it comes to relationships.” 

The rewards, however, outweigh the challenges. What does she get from this job, which requires a tremendous amount of multi-tasking, intelligence and accuracy? “A great sense of self-satisfaction when the job gets done safely and efficiently because of the huge responsibilities involved,” said Meera. 

Being a career woman requires a great deal of commitment and time management, but Ragoo, who believes in the equality of the sexes, manages her life well, and insists that “being an Air Traffic Controller enhances time management and multitasking skills.”

Several decades ago, this field was a male dominated one, but Ragoo pointed out that it has changed gradually, with TTCAA having more female supervisors in the Piarco and Robinson Aerodrome Towers, and an increasing number of female Air Traffic Controllers in Radar Control. I had the pleasure of meeting and interacting with Ragoo’s peers and it was clear that at the TTCAA equality is of great importance. 

As for if she is treated differently by her male counterparts Ragoo — whose role model is Michelle Obama — insisted that she is not. She did admit, however, that room for growth in the field locally is a bit limited due to availability and processes involved.

The Air Traffic Controller disclosed that she has many people to thank for who she is today. “I would like to thank the Almighty and my family for the love and support. Thanks to the Chairman and Board of TTCAA. Special thanks to the Director General, Mr. Ramesh Lutchmedial, for his support and vision as we pave the way for aviation professionals in the region. Many thanks to my female counterparts who have all contributed to the growth of women in Air Traffic Control in Trinidad and Tobago and to the many women out there who have contributed to Aviation globally.” 

So does Ragoo have any regrets getting into field, and what would she change about her job if given the opportunity? She insisted “I have no regrets, and there is nothing one can change about a great job like Air Traffic Control.”


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