It’s a high-stakes field requiring a delicate balance of mental dexterity and mechanical know-how. But for aircraft maintenance engineer (AME) Chevy Peters, the work is quite literally in his blood.
“My grandfather and my father are both engineers, so it’s kind of the family business,” says Peters, now an instructor for RRC’s Aircraft Maintenance Journeyperson (AMJ) program. “There’s a lineage there — I’m a third generation AME, and I’m pretty proud of that.”
Peters’ grandfather worked on helicopters in British Columbia (and later, as an instructor at B.C.I.T.), while his father served as an AME before becoming a pilot with Air Canada. In fact, both his grandfather and his father had pilots’ licenses, so Peters logged his share of hours working in and around planes as a kid.
“For a while I was thinking I’d be a pilot, but I found out I enjoyed fixing planes more than flying them,” says Peters. “I’ve always been mechanically inclined, and I actually got started by helping out with inspections, then trading that (work) for flying time. I found out I loved fixing stuff, and that was where my true calling was.”
Having originally enrolled in the Business Administration program at RRC — an experience he found useful, but not quite a perfect fit — Peters returned to take part in the first-ever offering of the College’s Aircraft Maintenance Engineer Diploma program.
He found his second go-round at RRC to be even more rewarding than the first, praising the equipment and facilities at the Stevenson Campus, the expertise of the instructors, and the ample opportunities for team-building with classmates.
After graduating, took a job with Buffalo Airways in Yellowknife — “If you’ve seen the TV show Ice Pilots NWT, that was my job,” he quips — working first on engine buildups, before moving on to a post with Great Slave Helicopters shortly afterward.
Wanting to be closer to his family, he later shifted to a job with Allied Wings in Manitoba, working on a civilian contract with the Canadian Forces, where he provided maintenance for helicopters used in flight training.
“It’s really good to bring a wide field of knowledge as an instructor,” he says. “I’ve been an apprentice, I’ve been an engineer, and I’ve been in management, so that’s certainly something I draw from — all those experiences and different perspectives.”
Peters describes his field as a particular “clean” industry, one that requires successful candidates to be just as good with their heads as their hands.
“Whereas in automotive, the time is often worth more than the parts, here you really have to understand the components, because the parts are so expensive,” he says. “You have to do a lot of trouble-shooting to ensure you’re doing things right.”
Peters says he enjoys working with students, and on developing his skills as an instructor — in addition to developing an even deeper understanding of various systems, he’s also taking RRC’s Certificate in Adult Education course.
He’ll be on hand to answer questions at this year’s Air Fair festivities, marking the 10th anniversary of the College’s Stevenson campus. He says the most successful candidates in his field are those with self-confidence and the ability to work independently, and notes Manitoba is a great place in which to find employment as an AME.
“There’s a lot going on here,” says Peters, whose six- and eight-year-old sons (he also has a baby daughter) have already shown a fondness for flying. “It’s not a boom and bust industry. Here it’s steady.”