By Glenda McCarthy
Wilson Tulk has worked around aircraft in some form or another all of his life; first in catering, then in maintenance and structural repair. He has since come full circle and is now an instructor at College of the North Atlantic (CNA), passing his knowledge on to the next generation of technicians.
For Wilson, the decision to enroll in the Aircraft Maintenance Engineering Technician (AMET) program at CNA’s Gander campus was a simple one. He wanted a change from his catering job and felt it would be the right up his alley.
The Aspen Cove native enrolled in the program in the mid-90s and realized right away he had made the right decision.
“The program itself and the instructors and the quality of the program were great. There were so many years of experience from the instructors when I came through… every person in each set portion of the program brought something to each subject. The material and how it was covered and how it was presented back then, and how it still is now, was well done,” he says.
Although he graduated from AMET, Wilson worked more in the structural aspect of aircraft repair.
“When I first went out into the field I went into structural work more so than the maintenance or avionics side. When some people finish the AMET program they will get really into the avionics side and more or less turn their speciality to the electrics of the aircraft versus being a mechanic or structures,” he says.
“When I went out I started working for manufacturer company Bombardier Aerospace in Toronto so I got to see all of these neat machines and tools and things you wouldn’t normally see in a structures shop. I got to use those tools and be trained on them.”
Wilson felt right at home in that environment and quickly realized he had found his niche. He stayed with Bombardier until 2001 and then moved to work at IMP Aerospace in Halifax, NS; following that position he took one with Air Canada.
“I figured I liked the work and was comfortable with what I was doing, so I felt that was my niche of the whole industry. I got on with Air Canada and I stayed there until they hit hard financial times.”
By 2004, Wilson had been working in the field for eight years when he noticed a turn in the industry; he took it as a sign to return to CNA and expand his training. That’s when he enrolled in the Aircraft Structural Repair (ASR) program.
With another diploma under his belt, Wilson had no trouble finding employment and he put in nearly a decade of work outside of Newfoundland.
“I did a lot of jumping around. With my previous experience from AME and the relevant structures work with Bombardier and IMP, I had rolled over into getting into the mechanics side when I went to Air Canada,” he says. “After the ASR program I did some contract work. I got hired on some contracts based on my past experience because I wasn’t just fresh out of school. They knew I had been working at this for a while, so I basically jumped around where work was available.”
After graduating in 2006, he ended up in the North working for Canadian Helicopters, and then took a job with Air Nunavut on Baffin Island.
“I basically stayed there for 10 years, where I worked as a base engineer for Kenn Borek Air. I ran their base in the North, did some contract work as well for First Air Canadian North and all of the companies on the air field up there.”
His favourite aspect of ASR is how it always changes from one project to the next.
“Inspections are the same routine thing that you are always looking at, always inspecting, always dismantling or taking apart, whereas with structures the damage is always different so your repair scheme will always be different. It makes you think and put the knowledge you learned throughout the course to use.”
But after spending so much time away from his hometown in Newfoundland, he felt it was time to return and fulfill a promise he made many years ago.
“Newfoundland is my home province and there’s no place like home. Home is where the heart is. My parents are still here and I wanted to be closer to them as they are getting older, so Newfoundland is where I wanted to be,” he says.
“I have done enough travel over the past 10 years to last me a lifetime. When I left here after AME in 1996, I told a lot of my instructors, ‘One day I will be back.’ Then the opportunity came up to work at CNA. I feel with the knowledge I have acquired in the field, that I have I brought something to the college.”
In 2015, Wilson became an instructor for the ASR program. While there was an adjustment period working in a classroom, he enjoyed his job from the get-go.
“My favourite part is seeing somebody soak up and actually apply the knowledge that I have passed on. That is probably the best thing. It’s knowing that if you can get a point across, and if you can teach someone how to use those tools correctly, and they can duplicate that or at least show progress each time, that’s rewarding,” he says.
“There’s a reward in doing that, but I also learn from them too because each person learns differently, so you have to take that into consideration. Sometimes, maybe the style or the way you put something across, the person doesn’t always get it. So you have to learn new techniques of passing on the knowledge you’ve learned. There is one set way of doing the job, but more than one way to get the point across of how to do it.”
For more information about the AMET and ASR programs, visit www.cna.nl.ca.