Training on the ground
Buffalo Air's aircraft maintenance school gears up

Doug Ashbury
Northern News Services

NNSL (Aug 16/99) - The North's first aircraft maintenance engineering school is climbing fast.

Buffalo Airways President Joe McBryan said the training facility is due to be ready Sept. 7.

Much of the structural steel for the 280 square metre (3,000 square foot) addition was erected in just three days.

The school's first group of students will start the North's first-ever aircraft maintenance engineering training program.

Students won't have to go far to observe aircraft maintenance. The new school is being built at the Buffalo Airways hanger at the Yellowknife Airport. Buffalo operates about 30 aircraft.

Asked how much of an investment is tied to getting the school up and running, Joe said:

"I'm spending my summer wages." He estimated costs at "in excess of $500,000."

McBryan envisions not just training but also design.

Pointing to a DC4 aircraft's fire retardant delivery system, McBryan said he would like to see Buffalo one day design a delivery system for Northern conditions -- something that could handle not only fire suppression but also oil spill management and spruce budworm in the North's forests.

"Stage two (design) is down the road," he said.

To co-ordinate the new training arm, Buffalo brought Hay River's Ginger Lester on board.

"We have full enrolment," she said.

The Buffalo School of Aviation's first class will have 17 students. It's a two-year, Transport Canada-approved program and counts as 18 months toward the 48 months needed to become a aircraft maintenance engineer.

Under Transport Canada rules, aircraft maintenance engineers must now take a two-year Transport Canada-approved course, Lester said.

The demand for aircraft maintenance engineers is high across North America, she said. Graduates should not have difficulty finding a job in the North, she adds.

"There are more jobs available than what we will graduate in the North."

Buffalo contracted with B.C.-based Northern Lights College to deliver the program. The program includes Northern Lights curriculum and instructors. As well, Aurora College is playing an administrative role in the new school.