National Air Traffic Control Services has been forced to apologise to staff after a controversial recruitment advertisement placed in Loaded magazine was accused of being sexist.
It features alongside adverts for cannabis seeds, sex lines and sex websites in this month's issue of the archetypal lads magazine.
Entitled 'Bird Watching' it shows a picture of two men leering and asks potential applicants to "imagine the bird you're talking to is a Boeing 747," adding "you have a rare knack for visualising information in 3D".
David Luxton, national secretary of Prospect Union which represents controllers, has sent a complaint to the NATS chief executive. "Air traffic controllers are broad minded but this is clearly offensive and very insulting, especially to women. It's so blatantly sexist. Air traffic control is supposed to be a top class profession - not a top shelf one."
Management at NATS has published a hurried apology on the company intranet after complaints from employees - 25 per cent of whom are female.
A spokesman for NATS said it hoped to recruit 130 new controllers this year and this was an attempt to attract younger staff.
"While the intention was good, the advertisement and where it was placed in the magazine was not. We've apologised to our staff unreservedly because the advert was inappropriate," he said.
The news comes as another blow to the beleaguered service following staffing problems, a pay dispute, computer failures and a disastrous move to its new £623m base at Swanwick.