Where are they now?

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Engineer working on a Cirrus SR22 aircraft.
Engineer working on a Cirrus SR22 aircraft | CASA

Career updates from the AME scholarship class of 2021

A lot has changed since 2021. We’ve battled bushfires, floods and a global pandemic, seen a new prime minister sworn in and even secured the hosting duties for the 2032 Olympic Games.

Things have also changed for 4 talented individuals who, over the last few years, have made impressive advances in their careers within the aircraft maintenance industry.

Inaugural scholarship program

In 2021, CASA began the aircraft maintenance engineer (AME) scholarship program for aspiring engineers.

The scholarship provides eligible apprentices and trainees the means and support to pursue careers in aviation maintenance and engineering.

Successful applicants get access to professionals within the industry for mentoring, as well financial support to complete their studies.

Flight Safety Australia interviewed the first recipients of the AME scholarship. In the years since then, they have excelled in their careers and have kindly sat down with us again to chat about their achievements.

Here’s what they had to say.

Maddy Candy

Maddy has always been humbled by her success within aircraft maintenance engineering.

She got her start as an apprentice at Jetstar in 2016 and has remained with the company, currently working as a LAME on their fleet of A320s.

‘It’s an amazing job! I’ve met some of the most wonderful people who took me in, showed me the ropes and mentored me through the rigors so I could get my licence,’ Maddy explains.

‘And that was one of the best things about participating in the CASA AME scholarship – the number of doors it opened for me to meet people with years of experience and expertise. By going through the process, I learnt a lot about the industry. It also created new opportunities for me to learn more about a wide range of aircraft types.’

Having the scholarship funding kept Maddy’s motivation levels high, to push through until she completed her studies.

‘Studying to become a licensed engineer is pretty tough and can be very demanding on your time, but if you stick it out, ultimately it’s a very rewarding experience,’ she says.

‘Aircraft maintenance is a great career to get into if you genuinely have a love for aviation and the dedication to ensure the safety and reliability of the aircraft you service. After all, if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day again in your life!’

Maddy say the AME scholarship is an invaluable resource for aspiring engineers to tap into financial support for an already expensive vocation.

She says it’s also a great opportunity for junior engineers to grow within the industry, which makes it an ideal pathway for people who are good with their hands and have a passion and drive to succeed.

Preelan Naidoo

Shortly after gaining the CASA AME scholarship, Preelan obtained his Part 66 licence. At the time, he was working for HeliEdge Aviation at Archerfield Airport in Brisbane’s south.

‘My Part 66 licence has enabled me to work and tour many picturesque locations around Australia, and working on helicopters is awesome’, Preelan says.

Currently at Asia Pacific Aerospace, Preelan gets to build Rolls-Royce M250 and RR300 turbine engines for aircraft all over the world.

‘I’m now also working towards obtaining my Level 2 non-destructive testing (Penetrant Testing (PT) and Magnetic Particle Testing (MT)) certification, as well as my GE T700 type course,’ he says.

He still occasionally gets back in the field working on helicopters, utilising the skills he learnt while studying for his Part 66 licence.

Preelan explains that once you’ve proven yourself in aircraft maintenance engineering, companies and other LAMEs are willing to invest the time and effort into you.

As for career highlights, Preelan has a few.

‘I’ve recently gained approval to solo build M250 gearboxes and turbine modules but that’s not the main highlight. One of the things I’m most proud of is being able to train and guide aspiring AMEs; knowledge while working in the field really aids their learning.’

Preelan sees the aviation industry growing considerably over coming years and reiterates that being a LAME opens a lot of doors.

‘You will have to work where the wind takes you,’ he says. ‘Word of mouth carries its weight in gold in this industry, so be mindful to always make a good impression when you start out at your first job.’

There isn’t a day that goes by that Preelan isn’t telling aspiring engineers to apply for the AME scholarship. Aircraft maintenance is an expensive interest, and many AMEs are out of pocket at some stage of the journey.

‘The scholarship is an awesome initiative by CASA – it has the potential to spark many fruitful lives and careers.’

Deborah Dewar

Deborah was almost at the end of her study journey when she received a call saying she was successful in securing funding from the AME scholarship.

At the time, Deborah was an apprentice at Premiair Aviation based at Jandakot Airport in the southern suburbs of Perth.

Since then, Deborah has worked her way through the aircraft maintenance industry to become a B2 LAME at Omni Executive, also based at Jandakot, working primarily on Pilatus PC12s and Cessna Caravans, and supporting the organisation’s business operations.

‘Completing my studies with the help of CASA’s AME scholarship program has opened up many exciting job opportunities for me,’ Deborah explains.

‘In this industry, you’ll quickly discover most aircraft maintenance organisations are interested in hiring licenced AMEs for their specific skill sets. Once I got my licence, having those sought-after skills gave me more options and flexibility about where, when and how I work.

‘Maintaining a good work-life balance is important to me. Thanks to Omni Executive’s flexibility, I’ve been able to go to part-time, giving me time to enjoy my hobbies and do some renovating.’

Deborah has been able to put the skills and knowledge she has learnt over the years to good use in a range of interesting projects.

‘At Omni Executive, I played a major role in a legacy PC12 avionic upgrade to a Garmin G600txi system,’ she says. ‘For my work, I was awarded the Recognition Award 2024 Aerospace, which was an honour!’

Deborah encourages anyone with the aspirations to become a LAME to apply for the scholarship. ‘In such a difficult industry to start in, it gives you a much-needed boost up.’

Frank Watkins

The last time we spoke to Frank, he was working as a contract licensed aircraft maintenance engineer (LAME) in general aviation. Now he’s a chief engineer who owns, operates and runs his own CAR 30 maintenance organisation.

‘Running my own aircraft maintenance business has certainly been a challenge, as you’d expect, but it’s been incredibly rewarding,’ Frank explains.

‘I applied for my AME scholarship when I was already halfway through my studies to become an AME. But when I saw it, I thought, “Wow, I better apply for that!’

Frank saw the scholarship as just the thing he needed to see through the rest of his studies.

‘Participating in the program provided me the opportunity to study for my turbine licence too, which I might not have been able to do so easily if I was embarking on it on my own.’

Since opening his maintenance business, Frank has been run off his feet – in a good way.

‘Business is certainly booming! I never knew how busy it could get. It’s a lot of hard work and long days, but it’s a good busy,’ he says.

Due to his overflowing bookings diary, Frank has been able to take on work experience students a few days a week and even hire a full-time apprentice to help keep up with demand.

‘I enjoy talking all things maintenance. Information sharing is very important in this industry, and I like to take on that mentorship role with some of the more junior engineers and students,’ he says.

‘I’ll always try to provide guidance and advice where I can. After all, I was in their position not that long ago.’

Frank believes it is well worth the time to apply for the AME scholarship but advises potential candidates to be passionate about the industry.

‘Don’t do it unless you’re passionate and motivated about aircraft maintenance,’ he explains. ‘You really need to love the industry to be successful in your studies. If you’ve got the enthusiasm and the drive to stick it out through the tough times, you’ll be rewarded with a fulfilling career in aviation maintenance.’

Applying for the AME scholarship in 2025

CASA runs the AME scholarship program every year.

To be eligible, applicants must:

  • have begun structured training towards a licence outcome or be working in the industry and gaining experience as an engineer
  • have a minimum of 2 years’ experience in the industry with a developed journal of experience
  • not already have a CASR Part 66 B licence.

Applications for the 2025 AME scholarship open in February. For the latest updates, subscribe to our aircraft maintenance engineer mailing list.

We thank the recipients of the 2021 scholarship program, as well those from recent cohorts, for being excellent ambassadors for the program. Your contribution to the aviation industry is immeasurable.

Maintenance safety month 2024

This May we’ve been talking about all things maintenance safety, with a month-long program of topics celebrating the people who keep the aircraft flying safely.

Visit the links below for more maintenance safety content:

Maintenance safety month webinars

Toolbox talk

Newsletters and articles

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