‘Take your career in your own hands’: How Michael went from general aviation to a LAME

Michael Wright is an avionics LAME who has proved that even after 20 years in the industry, it’s never too late to take charge of your career path.

Like many maintenance engineers, Michael was having issues attaining his first of type licence through CASA. Now that he has a full-time job and his licence, he talked us through how he did it and the advice he has for others.

What is your current role?

My current role is at Babcock MCS at Essendon Airport. I work seven on/seven off with six avionics guys. We carry out deep level maintenance and line maintenance on six 139 helicopters, which has helped me complete my first of type OJT journal in six months.

How long have you been in aviation for and how did you get into the industry?

I have been in aviation for 20 years. I spent 11 years in the US Navy doing E&I work on Seahawks and Sea Kings. I came over to Australia in 2010 and worked in general aviation at a small avionics company for six years. I got a lot of good experience, learned the radio side of things and got my B2 licence while working there.

I then felt I wasn’t getting anywhere career wise in general aviation. So I took a job as a maintenance manager at Sikorsky Helitech on Blackhawks for two and a half years. Six months after I finished my HeliTSA-139 course, I got my present position at Babcock.

Why did you decide to get your 139 licence?

For three years I had been applying for every job that was S-92 or 139, hoping that someone would put me on a course. I only got one interview and didn’t get that position. I felt that employers would only consider guys that had the old CAR30 license with all the types, and I had the new one with all the exclusions removed but no types. I wanted to take control of my own career.

I had already seen HeliTSA and considered paying for my own course, but at the time there was no way to get the OJT done. So when HeliTSA advertised a CASA approved OJT package, I talked it over with my wife and we decided to take that risk and pay for my own first type.

After I completed the course, I started getting responses from every job I applied for. Most still only wanted licensed guys, but at least they were considering my applications now. I picked up the position at Babcock six months after I finished course, and I completed my OJT package and was licensed one year after course.


What did you get out of your course with HeliTSA?

It introduced me to other avionics engineers and gave me a much better understanding of the industry. It showed me what companies were employing and where I needed to look for a job. The sim was excellent for giving me a good understanding of the things we learned on course, besides being a bit of fun.

I really liked the fact that I was taught by guys that were working engineers – I felt that made a big difference towards my understanding of the aircraft and the fact that I didn’t feel my time was wasted learning things that weren’t practical.

What’s the most interesting thing about the 139 you have learned?

What I felt helped me the most was learning how to interact with all the software. Specifically MPFR and Primus Epic hookups. I liked the fact that you can use the MPFR system for troubleshooting. On course we did daily HUMS downloads, MPFR downloads, hooked up to the CMC. I found this training very beneficial, even six months later from learning it.

How do you find the avionics suite on the 139?

I enjoy it and find it challenging; I like working on a glass cockpit aircraft. But I do think Honeywell should improve their graphics a bit (haha). I also think the MCDU interface is not very user friendly, but I guess those are the challenges.

What is the most challenging fault you’ve encountered on the 139?

We had a landing gear fault where the main gear would not come down all the way, except in emergency mode. Engineer Farrell and I ended up troubleshooting it to an internal switch on the right-hand retraction actuator, which was replaced and we were able to get it back online.

What made this challenging was the switch not really being shown correctly in the wiring diagrams, because it was part of a component and my own unfamiliarity with the landing gear system.

What is the best career advice you’ve been given?

Well I wouldn’t say I have been given a lot of advice, but if I was going to give some I would say don’t give up – keep applying for every job over and over, you will never know why you didn’t get the job. I applied for the job at Babcock three times in one year and on the fourth time they advertised it, they contacted me and asked me if I was still interested.

Another thing I would say about this industry is to foster your relationships and be aware of your reputation. Who you know matters and what people think of your work ethic matters.


What advice do you have for engineers looking to work on the 139?

Take your career in your own hands, pay for your own education if that is the career path you want. Don’t wait for someone to hand it to you.

Wondering if type training is the right step for getting a job or your first of type licence? Take a look at our HeliTSA-139 courses and OJT Journals to see what to expect during your course.


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