Jack is an aviation mechanic based in Whitehorse, the Yukon Territory’s capital. Most of the Yukon remains untamed and sparsely inhabited with only .03 residents per square mile. The total population is around 31,000 people, most of who live in or around Whitehorse. The Yukon is a place where winter temperatures can drop as low as -60 F. for days on end. The extreme cold is as hard on aircraft as it is on the mechanics who must sometimes work outside in the brutal temperatures in order to keep the planes running.
Unlike in the United States where those certified to work on airframes and powerplants are called A&P’s, in Canada they’re called AME’s, which stands for Aircraft Mechanical Engineers. Jack has been an AME for 35 years, about as long as he’s been a licensed pilot.
“Being a mechanic isn’t easy,” says Jack. “It’s hard work and long hours. There’s a shortage of mechanics everywhere, so there’s lots of work to go around. And it’s hard to find a good mechanic, so when people trust you, you get a lot of repeat business.” Jack doesn’t believe that the shortage of qualified mechanics will end any time soon. And as glass cockpits and other avionic equipment become standard in new airplanes, avionics mechanics will become even more in demand than they already are. Because most AME’s or A&P’s are not qualified to work on avionics, it also offers great career opportunities.
Though being a licensed pilot is not a requirement for AME’s or A&P’s, Jack believes it helps. “Being a pilot myself, I know the questions to ask. It helps me get the information I need when troubleshooting a problem.”
Jack’s favorite part of the job is dealing with the customers, especially bush pilots like himself. “There’s no class distinction when you’re talking about airplanes. It’s a level playing field. You’re all equals, and it doesn’t matter if you’re a doctor, a lawyer, or a bum. The other thing I like is that I don’t have to wear fancy clothes for my job.”
What tips does Jack offer to anyone considering a career as an aviation mechanic? “Get the training you need, then get ready for a lot of hard work. Not everyone is cut out to do this, but there’s no other job I’d even consider. I’ve been doing this work most of my life, and I’ll keep doing it until I retire.”