Carson Air vice-president of operations Operations Kevin Hillier with Okanagan College AME program instructor Dale Keegstra

Carson Air expands Okanagan College training fleet

Local aviation company enhances aircraft maintenance program with donation of second airplane.

  • Oct. 26, 2015 4:00 p.m.

A local aviation company has touched down with its second major donation to Okanagan College in as many months.

Carson Air has donated a Metroliner II aircraft to the Aircraft Maintenance Engineering (AME) M-License program; the company estimates the value of the aircraft at approximately $300,000. The aircraft landed at the Vernon Airport on October 16, welcomed by students, instructors, and Okanagan College employees outside the college’s Aerospace hangar adjacent to the runway.

“This aircraft has served Carson Air very well and we are proud to see it put to use as a training tool at Okanagan College,” said Carson Air’s vice-president of operations Kevin Hillier.

“We’ve hired numerous graduates of the College’s AME program over the years, so in a way, we are supporting the future of our industry and our company with this donation.”

On Sept. 19, Carson Air announced a donation of $125,000 to support the purchase of a flight simulator for the Commercial Aviation program in Kelowna.

“Support from industry plays a vital role in the college’s ability to provide high quality training experiences,” said Okanagan College president Jim Hamilton.

“We sincerely appreciate Carson Air’s investment in our students, Canada’s future aircraft maintenance engineers and aviators, through these very generous donations.

“A gift like this from Carson Air, a local employer of our graduates and mentor to our apprentices, speaks volumes to their commitment to education in the region.”

Built in 1980 in San Antonio Texas, the Metroliner II saw service with two US regional airlines before being imported to Canada in 1994 when it was converted to haul cargo.

Nearly 60 feet in length and with a wingspan to match, the 19-passenger, twin-engine turboprop has been part of Carson Air’s fleet since 1998.

The plane’s arrival in Vernon from Carson Air’s hangar in Kelowna marked the final flight for the aircraft, after more than 35,000 hours in the air over Canada and the U.S. (approximately 14,000 of which under Carson Air’s banner).

While the aircraft’s time in commercial service may be over, its utility as a teaching tool will go on for years, says AME program lead and acting chair Dale Martell.

“It will be utilized primarily for structures and electrical training,” said  Martell. “Electrical is one of the most challenging areas facing AME students, and so the hands-on experience they can get by working on an aircraft of this complexity is invaluable.”

Also upping the excitement factor for students: the fact that the aircraft was still in active service only days before it landed at the college.

“The more types of aircraft we work on, the greater depth of experience we gain,” said  AME student Ashley LaPointe. “This gives us pure experience on an aircraft we’ll definitely encounter out in the industry, which is very beneficial.”

Earlier this month, the cllege also received a Jetstream 31 aircraft from the Swanberg family of Grande Prairie & Fort St. John; that aircraft was valued at nearly $700,000, putting the total in-kind value of aircraft received by the College in 2015 at approximately $1 million (estimated).

Through the AME M- and S-License programs offered in Kelowna and Vernon, the College instructs students on structures, electrical, and mechanical maintenance of fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters and welcomes donations of aircraft and components.

More information about the AME program is available at www.okanagan.bc.ca/ame.

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