Aircraft maintenance engineer (AME) Preelan Naidoo says receiving one of CASA’s highly sought after scholarships at RotorTech 2021 earlier this year was an experience ‘I could have never dreamt of’.
‘It was so surreal, having “big” people from all over the helicopter industry recognise me,’ he says, of the scholarship presented by CASA CEO and Director of Aviation Safety Pip Spence.
Preelan, a leading hand at HeliEdge Aviation, is one of 6 CASA scholarship holders currently working on their Part 66 AME licence and, like all our candidates, had to demonstrate a commitment to achieving the highest of professional standards.
After spending his teenage years as a member of the 212 Squadron Air Force Cadets, Preelan studied at both Aviation Australia and Flight One. Since receiving the scholarship, he has acquired his licence. He now travels all over Australia, maintaining helicopters that operate across multiple roles.
‘There are lots of aspects of this career that are challenging, but that’s also what makes it rewarding – you are constantly refining and learning,’ he says.
‘I personally found it relatively easy to join the industry. My biggest aid was being willing to relocate for work and always being open to both fixed and rotary wing engineering. By diversifying your experience, you ultimately become a better engineer’.
Preelan believes the industry needs more young people to keep aviation ‘fresh and vibrant’. His advice to anyone contemplating a career in aircraft aviation is simple: go and visit an aircraft maintenance facility in person, get to know your surroundings and get a taste for aviation.
‘If you’re young, the simplest way is a structured apprenticeship,’ he says. ‘Although, if you do choose the self-study option, stay on top of your exams and journal. You can’t be successful without either of the two, so stay focused on your future.
‘I’m lucky enough to work alongside and lead a few apprentices and, honestly, the collective energy and humour is prolific.
‘Nothing taught in this industry is useless. Most things you learn can be repurposed into everyday life. You gain the ability to fix just about anything.’
Preelan has also discovered other advantages of being a licensed aircraft maintenance engineer (LAME). A recent career highlight was a post-maintenance flight above Brisbane and the Gold Coast in the copilot’s seat of a Bell 429 helicopter. After the night flight, he said, ‘seeing the ground during the day is awesome but being in the dark looking at screens, knowing you’re flying in a helicopter is a whole new level of aviation’.
‘An opportunity such as the CASA scholarship really does fuel self-motivation to be the best I can be,’ he says.
‘Being self-funded throughout, I have used the scholarship to partially offset my initial aero skills study fees. The scholarship does motivate new and current AMEs to apply themselves, despite the cost of training and exams.
‘My honest advice for anyone seeking to become a LAME is keep yourself in a constant state of curiosity and learning. Self-discipline and motivation are crucial to being a proficient engineer – stay on top of yourself first and foremost.
‘And just remember not to burn any bridges – word travels fast in this industry!’