Aviation offers 'ton of stuff you can do'

The main hallway at Westgate Collegiate and Vocational Institute was filled with students waiting for their turn to fly an aircraft on a flight simulator. The aviation event on Thursday brought Lakehead Public Schools, Confederation College, KBM Aviation and North Star Air together to spotlight a career in aviation for high school students. Visiting from KBM Aviation were student pilot Dhelal Mohammed and aircraft maintenance engineer (AME) Erica Henderson. They were joined by Alyssa Meuller, also an aircraft maintenance engineer from North Star Air, to encourage students to give things a try and step out of their comfort zone. "Aviation is a really great field to get into and just because you don't necessarily like turning wrenches, there's a ton of stuff you can do in aviation," Henderson said. "If you like planes, there's a lot of opportunity. There's a whole host of other things you can do in aviation to fulfil whatever niche you want to." Meuller said an important thing for youths to know is that aviation is a broad field. "Anywhere you have a need or a want to go, aviation can compensate for that, whether it's a pilot, a mechanic, if you want helicopter fixed wing, you want to travel or you want to stay home," Meuller said. "Don't give up and work really hard," Mohammed added. "There will be days where you want to give up. But you just have to push yourself and continue ahead." Mohammed said learning how to fly a plane is the "most frightening and most difficult thing you'll ever do" in your life. "But it's also very exciting and rewarding if you can stick with it. And just know that you'll get there if you put in the work," she said. Roger Drcar, the Lakehead Public Schools Specialist High Skills Major program co-ordinator and recruiter for the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program, explained that the event is aimed at promoting the high school aviation program. He said the program teaches grades 11 and 12 students the introductory aviation knowledge they will need if they pursue aviation as a post-secondary career choice. "The unique part of the aviation program is taught at the Confederation College hangar at the airport," he said. "For the first two periods throughout a semester, students would go there and be taught the mechanics and fundamentals of flight and an introduction to the aviation industry." The high school program has its own classroom and aircraft at the college hangar. Mohammed noted that there is plenty of room in the industry for women pilots and mechanical engineers. "You don't see many of us and it would be nice to see more," she said. "I am fortunate that my instructor is a woman and it's really nice to look up to her," she said.

Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal