Gatwick Airport is no stranger to tough times. In fact its future has hung in the balance on multiple occasions over the last century, but the airport has always fought back from the brink to overcome tremendous hurdles, cementing its place as the UK’s second busiest airport.
The airport and the thousands of people who keep its heart beating day and night are facing a challenge like no other in the shape of an invisible enemy that has rocked the aviation world to its core. Yes, Covid.
But in the midst of this crisis emerged a small but mighty positive force from someone who has called both the North and South Terminals home for the past 37 years.
He might have tiny legs, but that’s never stopped him getting his 10,000 steps a day.
Meet Gary Gatwick, the airport’s resident teddy bear. Gary has been sharing his daily adventures on Instagram since Spring 2020, reminding us of the incredible spirit that exists across the airfield.
Now, I would ask to you bear with me for a few short minutes… open your imagination and indulge in a little escapism while Gary takes you with him ‘inside Gatwick’.
Hello, I’m Gary Gatwick. I’m a bear. I’m a talking bear. I’m a talking, stuffed, toy bear, not very tall, with yellow fur. You don’t see many of me about now, do you?
I have been looking after Gatwick Airport since 1983, that’s 37 years, which is very old in bear years. My great uncle Barney says that I am still a youngster, but he’s been lying in a cupboard since 1948, so it’s easy for him. Barney used to be a boxer, he was a south paw.
Anyway back to me. I’m afraid I’m like that, I like to talk about me. I’m told it makes me un-bear-able, but I tell them that if they can’t bear it to get out of the kitchen.
So yes, I am the Gatwick Airport mascot, and I have seen everything a bear could ever hope to see in this amazing airport. I get taken on trips almost every day, oh not away from the airport, no. I have to keep my paws on the ground as it were, but even within the airport there is so much to see.
What? You thought that an airport was just for landing and taking off? Oh that’s funny, if you could see me now I’m bearly able to stand up. No, at Gatwick we, well I say we, but it is just the humans I have working for me, WE deal with all sorts. First there is safety. We need to make sure no-one gets hurt. So there are lots of people who spend all day long watching out for everyone else. We have the marshalls who guide aircraft into and out of aircraft stands. We have ground controllers making sure moving aircraft don’t bump into each other or anything else, and don’t accidentally suck small furry creatures into their engines – doesn’t bear thinking about. And of course the pilots and cabin crew are always thinking about the safety of everyone on board, including themselves.
But, you know, it doesn’t stop there. Inside our buildings there are lots of people thinking about how best to look after creatures my size and bigger, because there are many places where accidents can happen. Have you tried walking on any of the floors? They are nearly all tiled and I can’t be doing with it. I never stop sliding! As for you humans, it seems to be OK unless the floor gets wet and then wheeee, it’s like drunks at an ice-rink. Except that doesn’t happen thanks to some of our safety people, who you know better as cleaners.
And then there are our mechanics and engineers who keep the lifts, escalators, and travelators working, and behind the scenes keep the baggage system going too.
And there is more, because sometimes we are only safe when we are secure, and we have people whose job it is to keep us out of harm’s way. These safety people are called police, and Gatwick has a lot of them too. They look mean; don’t mess with them because when push comes to shove they will take down big grizzlies as if they were sacks of potatoes. But in the staff canteen when I see them, well they are just like me – teddy bears.
So safety is a big thing at Gatwick. Even our people guiding traffic are there for your safety making sure tired passengers are not run over on their way to the car park.
Then there is the operation, that’s what it’s called, this is the pointy bit, where we do what you expect; we get you on an off aircraft.
There are lots of aircraft and lots of passengers, and we have lots and lots of humans and systems to make sure that the right passengers get on and off the right planes, at the right time. Well you can just imagine what we have for that kind of nonsense, I mean it’s too much for my poor little bear-brain to handle. Luckily I have employed some smart humans to take care of that for me.
Now what do they do? Well, they make sure the aircraft are looked after properly – we don’t want any old thing sewn together with string (apart from me) taking our lovely passengers away, do we? So we make sure the aircraft are clean, filled with the right fuel, filled with lots of lovely food and drinks for our passengers, nearly all of it prepared by the hundreds of lovely people we have working in the various catering companies around the airport’s perimeter. I mean you might think hundreds of caterers is an exaggeration, but I have to look after over one hundred thousand passengers every day, and that’s a lot of plates of food. And don’t forget the lovely guys and girls who have to deliver that food from the kitchens to the aircraft – they don’t grow on trees you know. They have to know how to drive on an airfield extremely close to very expensive aircraft, lots of them.
Then there are the baggage handlers. You might come across some of them as soon as you arrive at the airport, checking that luggage belts are working properly and perhaps helping to load heavy or awkward items on to the system. The bags, all kinds of shapes and sizes, must be carefully transported to the right aircraft in good time for it to take off without delay. Now I won’t go into the mind-boggling complexity of that when you consider how many aircraft, how many passengers and how far some bags have to travel even before the aircraft leaves the ground, but trust me, if you think a talking bear is magic, you should consider how we do that. The people who deal with bags around aircraft don’t grow on trees either, and I love when they let me sit in the cab as they drive around the apron (that’s the area where they park the planes).
And then there are the people the passengers I meet, some are from our airlines, but most of them work for me, and hopefully you can’t tell the difference. They are all part of my family… if only they all looked like me.
So our people meet you and greet you and make you feel welcome as you enter my home. And they get you from the front door to the aircraft, or the other way, in the most relaxed manner possible, but yes of course it can still feel stressful because, as I am trying to prove, there is a lot going on.
At Gatwick we have literally thousands and thousands of humans who spend their entire working lives making sure that people and aircraft get where they need to go just as quickly, efficiently and comfortably as it is possible to achieve. That’s what I am here for, my name is Gary Gatwick the Bear and you are welcome.
Stop and say hello the next time you are here.
Thank you so much for your time Gary, and I can’t wait to meet you at Gatwick sometime soon. Follow Gary on Instagram @garygatwick.