12/20/2011 3:04:55 PM
Keir Madsen, 35, recently moved from Victoria, BC to Gander, NL for College of the North Atlantic’s Aircraft Maintenance Engineering program. Keir plans to complete the two-year program and transfer his credits to the Institute of Technology in Carlow, Ireland to earn a degree in just one additional year.
Keir Madsen’s love of aviation began with daily rides to work in a helicopter.
Since those two years spent working for a geological exploration company, the whirling helicopter rotors have held a certain fascination for him, so it seems only fitting he turned it into a career through the Aircraft Maintenance Engineering Technician (AMET) program at College of the North Atlantic (CNA).
“My decision to become an aircraft maintenance engineering technician started a long time ago with a job I had in Yellowknife, NWT,” says the 35-year-old British Columbia native. “My work began out in remote mining and exploration camps.”
With no roads in or out, the only means of transportation was by airplane or helicopter, which is when Keir fell in love with aviation.
His dream was to become a helicopter pilot, but something always seemed to get in the way.
“I moved onto other things but the whirl of the rotor blades was never far behind.”
Searching for a purposeful career, Keir entered university but dropped out during his first year. He received a diploma as a Network and Internet Support Specialist, but later joined his family’s construction business before branching out to run a successful business of his own for six years.
“I was doing hardwood floors and things like that. But the final push to get out of the (industry) was my dad. Recently he had both knees replaced, and since I was following in his footsteps in the construction industry, he pleaded I get out while I could still walk.”
Keir’s first thought was to follow his dream of being a helicopter pilot, but at a cost of nearly $70,000 it was still unattainable. So he chose the next best thing – to fix his beloved aircraft instead.
“I decided then that being an AME technician was the path I should take. Having had my own business (I wanted that again) and having the dream to fly helicopters in the future I decided that I would learn the inside workings of both aircraft and helicopters first,” he explains.
“Together I would combine the two into a business...into something I would be proud of. My wife and I love to travel and the opportunities that being an aircraft maintenance engineering technician can provide are virtually endless.”
Keir originally researched schools in British Columbia and Alberta but decided to enrol at CNA. There were a number of factors that contributed to his decision to move to Newfoundland and Labrador.
“CNA is probably the only school in Canada I found that offers aircraft mechanic and avionics in two years and that was probably the main decider.”
The other contributing factor was the transfer agreement CNA has in place with the Institute of Technology in Carlow, Ireland. A graduate from CNA’s Aircraft Maintenance Technician program can be granted credit for the first two years of the three-year Bachelor’s degree in Aircraft Systems Engineering, as well as credit towards their European Aircraft Maintenance licence, which enables graduates to work in any country belonging to the European Union.
“I plan to go to Ireland for a year to do that Aircraft Systems Engineer degree. My wife is already looking at apartments there. She would have supported me in coming here anyway but when she found out about going to Ireland, she was really behind me.”
Although he only started in September, Keir says he loves the program.
“The instructors are really knowledgeable.. I didn’t know if it was going to be more academic but the instructors here are teachers who have also been in the industry. Some have been in industry for 20 years and teaching here for 20 years so I’m really impressed with that. I don’t know if the other schools in the country offer that kind of thing.”
Another factor that has impressed him during the past three months is the hands-on nature of the program.
“We are able to get our hands dirty. In the first month we were already touching planes and that was exactly what I was looking for.”
As a kid, Keir really enjoyed taking things apart and figuring out how they worked and feels the AME program appeals to that side of him.
“Avionics is all about wiring and the electronic part and instruments of the aircraft – how they all work and how the aircraft itself is wired to make everything work,” he says. “When I was younger I was always taking apart the VCR and putting it back together. Nowadays all modern aircraft are full of electronics. Before it was just pull the stick back and it pulls the cable, and now you pull the stick back and the computer tells the rudder what to do, so it’s changing. That`s the future.”
Keir certainly believes his future as an aircraft maintenance engineer is very bright.
“It’s all about finding a job. The instructors say it’s a 100 per cent job rate within three months of graduating.”
However, until he graduates, he is dedicated to succeeding in his studies. Keir recently walked away with two awards from CNA’s provincial awards program – The Rockwell-Collins In-Program Bursary valued at $1,200 as well as the Fry Family Foundation scholarship valued at $1,500.
“My determination to successfully complete my course as in AME stems from my stubborn nature and willfulness to achieve at the highest level,” Keir says.
“Having moved out from Victoria, BC to Gander, Newfoundland there is no going back without first going forward with my dream, and Gander is where that dream begins. My lifelong dream of going after what I want in life has finally come, and I am not going to let it get away, no matter how challenging the course can and will be over the next two years.”
Public Relations Assistant
College of the North Atlantic