Matt Evans works on the avionics in the cockpit of a DC-3 airplane owned by Buffalo Airways. The DC-3 or “Gooney Bird” was created in the middle of the Great Depression and revolutionized air travels in the 1930s and 40s. This aircraft was featured in the episode of Ice Pilots NWT which Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden piloted in season four. Twenty-nine year old Matt Evans of Gander has been employed with Buffalo Airways since he graduated from College of the North Atlantic’s Aircraft Maintenance Engineering Technology program in 2012. The company is the focus of the popular History Television docu-series which follows the adventures of “Buffalo Joe” and his maverick arctic airline.Related video:
Lenny Kravitz might set the mood for each episode of Ice Pilots NWT with his song Fly Away, but College of the North Atlantic (CNA) graduate Matt Evans is one of the few people tasked with keeping the show’s planes in the skies each and every day.
Matt, 29, from Gander, graduated from CNA’s Aircraft Maintenance Engineering Technology (AMET) program last year, and within a day had employment waiting for him with Buffalo Airways, the company that is the focus of the popular History Television docu-series which follows the adventures of “Buffalo Joe” and his maverick arctic airline.
Matt’s interest in aviation began when he was just a child and he recalls many trips to the airport to see the airplanes with his father and brother. They would find a place to lie down under the flight path of the airplanes outside the fence as they were taking off.
“Growing up in Gander in the ‘80s it was a pretty booming spot for aircraft. Either it was going up to see what new was new coming in or even racing around the airport to get underneath them on takeoff,” said Matt.
“I’ve been under some good ones too. I’ve been under the (Antonov) An-225, which is the largest aircraft, right outside the fence. It’s loud!” he said with a chuckle. “It’s such a rush – especially with a heavier weight aircraft. They don’t get so high at the end of the runway so you’re sitting underneath them and they’re just above your head. You’d swear that if you jump, you can touch the bottom. It’s been an ongoing thing - a little family trip, but more of an addiction I guess because of the rush.”
As a child his dream was to fly aircraft, but when he was diagnosed as diabetic, the doctors said that wouldn’t be a career option. So Matt decided to do the next best thing – servicing the airplanes to make sure they fly correctly.
“It seemed like the logical thing to do. I’ve liked aircraft for a long time so I went with something I liked.”
Matt says he “never really had a career” per se. He held a job at a gas station, and worked as a home care attendant for five years before figuring out it was time to go back to school.
Matt was living in Gander at the time and says there was no question he would attend CNA.
“The program was in my home town and I was already established there so I didn’t have to move away to do it. I heard it was a good program from a friend of mine went through the previous year and graduated, and got a job with Cougar Helicopters.”
When asked to describe the program, one word summed it up – “wow!”
“It’s very well organized. The instructors are pretty much perfect. They were really knowledgeable. Any questions you had or any extra time you needed for something they would usually lend you their ear – they’re really helpful, very knowledgeable and really friendly as well.”
His time in the program prepared him well for a job with Buffalo, and Matt says he’s the first CNA graduate employed by the company.
“Buffalo is pretty interesting. It’s not a large company, with probably 60-70 employees for the whole operation. A lot of them are really good to work for and they’re very knowledgeable. It’s a different structure to the company and it’s more old fashioned. There’s the same standard but the mentality is, work hard and you get rewarded for it when they see you trying to do your best. I started out doing avionics for about six months and I am still doing that, but Joe threw me on the water bombers for a little bit and I’m going to check that out and have a bit of fun. I grew up with those buzzing around my head too so I’m interested in being able to work on those.”
Matt spends his time working on a number of different aircraft including some from the World War II era which have made history including the DC3, DC4 and C46.
“It’s interesting working on World War II airplanes, especially with the avionics and trying to make them work with 2013 technology.”
You may catch a glimpse or two of Matt during season five of Ice Pilots NWT.
“I’ve had a camera pointed in my direction but I haven’t exactly been interviewed,” Matt says of having a film team on-hand. “I’m not too worried if I do get on TV to be honest. If you’re interesting enough they’ll stick you on TV, so next season we’ll find out if I’m interesting enough.”
It was an adjustment having a filming crew around and an even bigger adjustment to the weather in the Northwest Territories.
“Summer time it’s nice with 24-hour daylight. Winter time it’s cold. I’ve had to change a buddy heater in a cell at -55 C outside. Basically you run outside for 20 minutes and do what you can do, come inside and warm up for half-an-hour, and run back outside for 20 minutes and continue to do that until you’re finished.”
But his favourite part of the job is that every day is different.
“You’re always learning something. Everything is different day in and day out so there is never a normal day, especially if something comes in broken down and you have to fix it right away. There’s a little pressure but that’s kind of nice too because it keeps you on your toes.”
Looking towards the future, Matt can see himself sticking with Buffalo Airways.
“I can see myself here for a while. I have to get my licence in AME – and that will take at least four years. I’m an apprentice right now. I’m not getting any younger so I don’t see myself changing occupations or changing places where I work.”
But he definitely recommends CNA for those interested as a career as an AMET.
“Anyone who has an interest for it should definitely check it out. I’ve heard CNA’s (program) is one of the better ones across Canada actually. Guys that I’ve talked to say their programs are a little different. With CNA it’s a two week course, practical and theory and when you finish that you move on to the next one so it’s ever changing,” Matt said.
“You don’t do something for four months like a university degree so it keeps your interest. To me it seemed better to do it in two-week blocks instead of a four month semester deal, especially if you’re a hands-on person or, like me, have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It’s easy to lose a bit of focus.”
Matt certainly has found his focus, and is looking forward to an exciting career in aircraft maintenance. For more information about the AMET program at CNA, visit www.cna.nl.ca.
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College of the North Atlantic