“WE once had a pilot experience total brake failure and couldn’t land.”

Andy Trafford has seen it all.

Throughout his career, working for both the Royal Air Force as well as the fire service, Mr Trafford has had to deal with a range of unique, high-octane and heart-in-the-mouth dangerous situations.

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The owner and director of Wearside-based MacDonald Martin Fire and Security Limited said: “I remember once having to deploy a cable (similar to those on an aircraft carrier) across the runway and ‘catch’ a plane as it went past, but the aircraft missed the cable.

“The only way to stop the plane was to use the emergency nets at the end of the runway – thankfully they worked and when we got there the pilot was fine, if a little grey.”

For more than 35 years, Mr Trafford’s career has evolved dramatically, from a wet-behind-the-ears teen signing up for the Royal Air Force Fire Service in 1980, to overseeing a rapidly expanding company that currently employs nearly 30 people with an annual turnover of more than £1.5m.

Yet his objective remains the same now as it did when he put pen to paper in the RAF recruitment centre – “our first priority is always life”.

Having dedicated his adult life to saving others, it is no real surprise to hear him talk about how he rarely feels pressured at work.

“I can honestly say that very little fazes me”, said Mr Trafford.

“The best thing about time spent in the RAF and the fire service is that you learn to handle high-pressure situations and make the correct decision when it needs to be made.

“I genuinely feel prepared to deal with all eventualities and I know that all the people we employ with similar backgrounds feel the same.

“We have got guys from the military and former firefighters and I know they are problem-solvers, they are the people who, if they encounter an issue on a job, will rectify it.”

Serving on tours to the Falkland Islands and Germany, Mr Trafford left the RAF and moved to Northumberland Fire and Rescue.

A transfer to Tyne and Wear saw him posted to Gateshead, as well as stints in Newcastle and Sunderland, where the idea for MacDonald Martin took root.

He said: “I worked my way through the ranks to the role of station officer, but by then I had the desire to start my own with the business.

“I took a break from work and threw everything into starting the firm.”

Now the family business specialises in all aspects of fire safety and security, adding electrical engineering to its roster in the last year as client demand increased.

Mr Trafford added: “We’re totally responsive to the needs of the client.

“We started out by carrying out fire risk assessments and sub-contracting work that arose, to carrying out the work ourselves.

“Our growth has been organic.”

The company collaborates with a number different industry leaders, such as housing association Gentoo and Sunderland City Council.

But it is current work with Bowburn-based construction firm Esh Group that is the most challenging.

The firm is installing and maintaining fire safety equipment in buildings owned by Northumbria Police and West Yorkshire Police.

Mr Trafford added: “We don’t have a standard system that we fit for every job.

“We work closely with clients to find out the specific needs and, in every case, will pull together a system tailored to meet their own requirements.

“We deliver exactly what customers need.”

Five minutes with…Andy Trafford

Favourite North-East building and why? The Sage. It’s just such an iconic building. I wish I had the talent and vision to even think of designing such a masterpiece.

What was your first job and how much did you get paid? £30 a week working in the warehouse of a plumbing merchant.

What is the worst job you've had? Delivering Yellow Pages.

What would you cook for me if I came around for dinner? I’m a very traditional cook, so something simple like a Sunday roast. I can do everything except the Yorkshire puddings.

What would your superpower be? To be able to read people’s minds.

Name four people, dead or alive, who would be at your perfect dinner party: Brian Blessed, Martin Johnson (ex-England World Cup winning rugby captain), Robert De Niro and Sir Ian Botham.

Most expensive thing you've bought - other than car or house - and how much? A cruise for £5,000.

Who is the best person to follow on Twitter and why? I don’t follow anyone.

Favourite book? Any Jack Reacher or Inspector Rebus novel.

When did you last cry? On New Year’s Eve, which we spent with my sister from Australia and her family and my brother and his family from Hampshire - the first time all three families have been together for 12 years.

What is your greatest achievement? Marrying my wife Jackie and bringing four children up.

What's the best piece of advice in business you've ever been given? Always ensure there’s a margin in the deal – if not, walk away.

Favourite animal and why? Our Labrador Millie. She’s just a typical faithful and loving family pet who has given us so much enjoyment over the years – plus she’s much less hassle than the kids.

Most famous person on your mobile phone? I lost my phone once in a golf clubhouse and went back to look for it. I heard a voice ask me what I’d lost and turned round to see Paul Collingwood who then rang my phone. I did delete it straightaway, but had it for a few seconds!

What was the last band you saw live? Rod Stewart (not a band, but the last live act).

Describe your perfect night in: Having a family and friends party.

In another life I would be... A professional sportsman – footballer, golfer or cricketer.

Who would play you in a film of your life? Richard Gere – apparently my hair is the same colour as his.

What irritates you? People being late and negativity.

What's your secret talent? Being the worst DIY person in the world.