BCIT students Julius Hettig and Jason Kim paint a Handley Page Hampden, a Second World War aircraft, last month.

Prepping their careers for take off

Aircraft Maintenance students volunteer at Langley’s Museum of Flight solely for the experience

For aviation fanatics, visiting the Canadian Museum of Flight is time well spent and volunteers from BCIT’s Aircraft Maintenance Engineering program (AME) are boosting their career prospects while they take in the history.

Every Tuesday volunteers flock to the museum, and Jay Park and Julius Hettig are just two of six BCIT students and new graduates who come for hands-on learning and the chance to set themselves apart from their peers.

“When I come here I can touch the aircraft, I can have experience with the aircraft,” said Park, an international student who finished his program in June.

He was one of five volunteers who showed up on Tuesday, Aug. 20, to repaint the Handley Page Hampden, an aircraft that served bomber command in the early days of the Second World War.

It is the third time the plane will have been repainted, according to volunteer Alfie Frost, a regular at the facility.

There are more than 25 aircraft at the non-profit museum and, of those, six are still flying.

Volunteers work to restore, preserve and showcase Canada’s flight history and in 2002, 22 years of restoration efforts paid off when the 1937 Waco ACQ Cabin biplane took flight.

A field trip to the museum last month prompted Hettig to start volunteering.

The former video game artist looked to aviation mechanics when jobs in his field became scarce and big names in the industry started moving east, he said.

Now, set to graduate from AME in December, Hettig is hoping to land a position working on helicopters.

AME is an accredited program and hands-on learning comprises about 50 per cent of the students’ workload, but volunteering at the museum is not counted as experience or credit in the program, according to Gordon Turner, associate dean of aerospace programs at BCIT.

Nonetheless, word of the opportunity gets passed along from one group of students to the next, with a new intake of students every eight weeks.

“The hands-on experience and working with the older technology is very useful,” said Turner.

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