Time flies when you're having fun... on work experience!

QEII student, Grace Harrison, embarked on her work experince week to explore her passion for flying with West Atlantic Aviation.

Release Date: 06/07/2018 16:35

Flying her way to success - Here's Grace's story

Grace Harrison – Apprentice Mechanic at West Atlantic Aviation 

Grace 12

QE11 student, Grace Harrison is an aspiring pilot who has completed her work experience placement with aircraft maintenance company West Atlantic Aviation. As an Apprentice Mechanic, the main aim of Grace’s work experience was to find out more about Aviation, the processes involved in flight planning and to gain an insight into the mechanics of the planes she hopes to one day pilot.

We visited Grace during her placement week to find out how she was getting on!

Are you enjoying your placement?

It’s been really good! I’m very interested in everything going on here at West Atlantic Aviation and the technical aspects of the job. I’ve been working on planes which are 30+ years old and no longer take passengers, so they are mainly used for general post and cargo transport on and off the Island.

What’s an average day like working at West Atlantic Aviation?

My working day begins at 8am – so it’s an early start for me to get here on time as I live in St Johns!

Most days I will be involved in a variety of tasks. The most important thing we do is carry out the routine checks required after every flight, where the parts are tested and assessed. Repairs or part replacements are then added into a maintenance schedule that fits around the planned flights, to ensure there are no delays with deliveries of post and cargo. Meticulous records of these checks are kept and I helped with organising and filing the test cards used.  

Grace2 (1) I would carry out the checks in Avionics - the machines we run the checks through are used to simulate what the plane will be doing in the sky, and make sure that everything will work under those conditions from down here on the ground. For example, simulations of the pressure that will be put on the plane in relation to how high the flight will be going, and all other the similar technical checks needed to make sure that the plane goes out safely.

When the simulation is running I am continuously checking the gauges are all correct, and not showing any readings which could cause concern. One of my favourite checks to carry out is the balancing out the propellers – it’s great to see in progress! The propellers start off shaky and then they soothe out to a gentle hum as they become aligned!

All the information about a plane is stored in their ‘black box’ and is referenced to checking everything on the plane is in working order and up to standards. For example, each part needs to be checked and changed after a certain period of usage/time – and these changes are logged to make sure we can check when they were last changed, and when they’ll need changing again in the future. In addition to maintenance, every single part on a plane is marked with a batch number; it’s possible to see every plane which has a part installed from that batch, and if there are any potential faults they can be tracked down and recalled to be changed! The detail in which this can be done is incredible.


What skills do you think you have developed whilst on your placement?

I’ve really learned an awful lot about what it means to be a pilot and all the technical stages that go on behind the scenes of a flight and planning.

I’ve enjoyed this experience so much, I wouldn’t rule out the prospect of pursuing a career in engineering alongside piloting.

Getting to better understand the background of flight maintenance and prep work has been a great opportunity to see behind the scenes of general pilot activities. Filling out the Test cards and carrying out the flight checks has really taught be about the importance of accuracy and attention to details. 

How has your placement lived up to your expectations?

I didn’t know quite what to expect before coming here to be honest – but I didn’t expect to get to be so involved with everything and be as hands-on as I have been (I thought I would mostly be just watching!).

I’m finding that I’m getting quite tired as I’m not used to the longer days, but I’m taking on so much new information each day – it’s a good kind of tired!

Has work experience given you some idea of what you might like to do in the future?

I’m honestly going to miss not coming back once the placement is finished!

It’s been a unique and informative placement, learning so much more than I thought I would. They let me go up on the line – which requires going into the airport and through security – to allow me to talk to the other pilots during pre-flight preparations before the planes were due to take off, which was a fantastic opportunity to speak to people working full-time in the industry.

When I’m 16 years old I will be allowed to fly solo, so until then I’ll keep training in my aim to be a pilot. It’s been hard to learn so far, fitting lessons in between year 10 mock exams, but I’d hope next summer to be able to pursue more work experience and be able to dedicate more time to training.

Everyone at West Atlantic Aviation has been so friendly and supportive here, and I’ve been welcomed to come back in the future. If possible, I hope I might even get to see the view from the jump seat!

Do you have any advice for students who are doing work experience next year? Grace4

I found my placement myself, through my Mum who’s friend is a manager here at West Atlantic Aviation. He knew I’d been really interested to come and see the place and how it works and finding this placement has meant that I’ve been able to get the relevant insight into aviation I was looking for – I’m so lucky to have been able to experience this and build my knowledge and skills for a future in aviation.


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