Frank Watkins recently received his CASA 2021 scholarship certificate from CASA Board Chair Mark Binskin.
The opportunity to present Frank with his certificate in person arose when the Board held their recent meeting in Adelaide, where Frank is based.
Frank is one of our 6 CASA 2021 scholarship holders and, like all our candidates, had to demonstrate a commitment to achieving the highest of professional standards.
Frank says he was introduced to helicopters at a young age due to his father working as an aerial marksman.
‘I don’t think I’ll ever forget the first time I went flying, it was like nothing else I had ever experienced,’ he says.
‘From that point on I was set on being a helicopter pilot, but when I got to my late teens, I went off to do some work experience for a helicopter operator/maintenance facility in NSW.
‘Before this time, I hadn’t thought much about the helicopter maintenance side of things. I did around 6 weeks’ work and I guess that is where the inspiration came from to pursue the career of fixing them rather than flying them.
‘I started out trying to get an apprenticeship in Adelaide with some of the operators there but due to my stubbornness in only wanting to work on helicopters, this obviously narrowed the prospects down considerably.
‘I then decided to move myself up to the Sunshine Coast in Queensland and study the Certificate IV theory course with Aviation Australia to try and get a head start on an apprenticeship.
‘I came back to South Australia, tried again for a job locally with unfortunately still no opportunities arising.
‘After that I applied for the first helicopter apprenticeship job that came up in Australia and got it, up in North Queensland, so I packed up my life again and moved there.
‘I was lucky to learn the trade where I did. The standard of work was as high as it gets, which has held me in good stead through to today.
‘I finished my apprenticeship and moved back to South Australia and have been working here since.
‘Self-studying my way from Cert IV to diploma (LAME level) was the most challenging part.
‘Just needing to stay committed to studying, while working in a relatively remote part of the state, meant that when every exam session came around, there was a lot on the line.
‘It was a great feeling to receive the CASA scholarship. I have worked hard to get to where I am now and sacrificed a lot, so it was rewarding to be recognised for those efforts.
‘I have put the money towards attending a RR250 engine course to add the type rating to my licence.
‘I currently work as a contract licensed aircraft maintenance engineer in the general aviation side of the industry, so every day is different, from 100 hourlys and rebuilds to troubleshooting of breakdowns. This variety is what I enjoy!
‘I find the troubleshooting aspect of the job the most challenging but at the same time I enjoy that side of it. Those scenarios are where you learn the most and must draw on your experiences and knowledge to rectify the issues in front of you.
‘I want to just continue developing my skills and keep on gaining as much experience as I can with different airframes/engines because in my opinion, there really is no substitute for that side of it. You can’t buy genuine experience – you must put in the time.
‘My top tip for people considering starting a course in aircraft engineering is to get as much theory done as soon as you can once you start an apprenticeship.
‘Don’t put it off, just get in a routine, set some goals and get it done.
‘It takes a certain type of person to do what we do as aircraft maintenance engineers.
‘If you aren’t 100% committed to succeeding in the job, then you just won’t make it.
‘To be successful in this field you need to have an eye for detail, very high standard of work ethic, be motivated and have a real passion for the job that you’re doing.
‘The biggest thing that I carry through from job to job is really treating every helicopter like it’s my own and being prepared to go the extra mile to get things perfect. There are no shortcuts in this industry.
‘The job has taken me to some interesting places, many of which other people just don’t get the opportunity to see.
‘The industry is tough, there is no doubt about that. It was difficult to get a foot in the door and start fixing helicopters but that is what I like about the industry at the same time.
“If you’re committed to the job/career, then the industry will eventually reward you if you work hard enough.’