Real Lives: Norman honoured for helping airport to soar

Norman Allan
Norman Allan
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A manager at Edinburgh Airport is to be recognised for nearly three decades of service to Scotland’s busiest air transport hub.

Norman Allan, who joined as a management duty officer in 1984, has received a Celebrating Success award from the airport in recognition of his contribution to its growth.

In his early years, when the terminal had a dedicated VIP lounge, the 58-year-old was responsible for meeting and greeting some of the world’s leading politicians and celebrities.

He has vivid memories of the passengers encountered during that time.

“I met most of the royals during those years, although never the Queen or Princess Diana,” he said. “But I remember particularly when Mikhail Gorbachev, who was in the Russian government at the time, came to Edinburgh years ago and Yuri Andropov, the Russian leader, died.

“His plane was on its way to the airport and he was due to do a press conference before heading on to his next engagement, but we got a call saying that he was needed in Russia because the president had died.

“We had to take him down a back stair as soon as he landed. His security detail were not expecting that and when we suddenly stopped him from going into the airport, they were not happy.”

But for Norman, the furore that followed Gorbachev’s sudden departure in 1984 was nothing compared with the reaction when two pandas touched down at the airport 27 years later.

“You don’t often have live animals flown around – there was a whole new expectation then,” said Norman of overseeing the welcome given to Tian Tian and Yang Guang in December last year.

“There was a lot of publicity riding on them and the airport did not want to let anybody down. We had to make sure that the expectations of the Scottish Government, the Zoological Society and the Chinese government were all met.”

Norman’s experience of working at airports began in the early 1970s. Growing up in Aberdeen, where he attended Woodside Primary and Robert Gordon College, he joined his home city’s airport as a work operative in 1973 after being kicked out of Aberdeen University Law School for failing his first year exams.

“My mum worked as a cook at the airport at the time and helped me get the job there,” he said. “Things were hectic because the airport was just taking off on the back of the oil barons. There was lots of money sloshing about and lots of airlines came to Aberdeen on the back of it. I went from being a student, all friendly and laid-back, to suddenly having to work. And you had to do a bit of everything. There was no such thing as a job description back then.

“The thing I like about my job is that I’m part of a team – it’s making sure that my team operates well and gets the job done.”