AVIONICS SYSTEMS TECHNICIAN
IN THE CANADIAN FORCES
I’m Master Corporal Danielle Langley from Guelph, Ontario. I’m an Avionics Systems Technician posted to 12 Wing Shearwater.
And I’m Corporal Nathan Michalopoulos from Asham, Manitoba, an Avionics Systems Technician at ATESS, the Aerospace Telecommunications Engineering Support Squadron, at CFB Trenton.
MICHALOPOULOS: In the Canadian Forces, if it flies, you can be sure it’s loaded with a complex array of state-of-the-art avionics. That’s the communications, computer, radar, electrical, and guidance systems that are the nerve centre of every jet fighter, long-range patrol aircraft or transport, and life-saving helicopter.
LANGLEY: You couldn’t go anywhere without your avionics. It’s your flight controls. That’s how you’re getting off the ground. It’s how you’re seeing with your radar, what the weather is going to be like. Especially when we’re talking about a military application, your tactical information all comes from avionics.
MICHALOPOULOS: We’re the technical experts who install, test and maintain everything from search radar to navigational transponders; from flight control to fire control. Even the famous “black box” flight recorders.
LANGLEY: A pilot can come to me with just a list of symptoms, and with that information, I can read a wiring diagram and find the problem area, and it amazes me every time I do it.
MICHALOPOULOS: The average person, you might be lucky to be familiar with a computer. Whereas people in my trade, we can actually deal with the circuit boards, we build the circuit boards, we do our own soldering, and it can be pretty in depth.
We’re posted to every Air Wing in Canada, of course. But you might be surprised to learn that you’ll also find AVS Techs aboard Canadian Navy ships, supporting our maritime helicopters. And we go with the Army, too, wherever they're deployed and they need tactical helicopter support.
LANGLEY: And we have responsibilities out on the flight line, too: including parking, de-icing, and re-fuelling the aircraft.
LANGLEY: The best experience I’ve ever had in the Canadian Forces was definitely going to Kandahar, Afghanistan. I could see daily how my job was affecting not only the local population around us, but the troops that were right on the ground, being shot at every day.
MICHALOPOULOS: The coolest part of my job is really getting to see all the little gadgets and top shelf technology that the average person will never see in their lifetime. It’s kind of taking a peek behind the curtain, and you get to see the best that the industry has to offer.
LANGLEY: The best thing about my job is that it’s never the same. I never know what I’m going to be doing day-to-day. I could be fixing a wiring snag; I could be upgrading an aircraft, actually applying modifications that engineers have come up with to better aircraft. The possibilities are endless.
MICHALOPOULOS: The latest generation of Hercs run totally off mission computers, so learning how those new systems tick is really exciting to me. Our fleet is getting more modern every year, and we’ll be right there for all those rollouts.
I love being on my toes, new surprise every day, keeps my interest in the job. It’s always something new. It’s always a new challenge, and it’s very rewarding.
MICHALOPOULOS: After you finish your Basic Military Training, you’ll dive into the technical aspects of the Avionics trade.
First, you’ll spend about seven months in Kingston, Ontario, on a course called “POET”: Performance-Oriented Electronics Training. That’s where you’ll study your basic circuitry and radio spectrum, power flow and computer networks.
LANGLEY: After that, you’ll move on to the Canadian Forces School of Aerospace Technology and Engineering at Borden, Ontario for another 24 weeks. In Borden, you’ll learn to adapt the basic electronics theory you learned on the POET course to specific aircraft systems.
MICHALOPOULOS: All in all, you’ll get about a full year of high-intensity technical training. You’ll learn how every electrical, mechanical, power and computer system on a fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft works – and how they’re linked to each other in some of the most modern flying machines in the world.
LANGLEY: And from there, you get posted. You can go anywhere in Canada, be working on anything from F-18s to Hercules, to Sea Kings, fixed wings, rotary wing… you name it.
LANGLEY: Your first posting will be to an Air Force Wing in Canada, where you’ll join the Avionics team for your on-the-job training followed by aircraft-specific training.
MICHALOPOULOS: It’s very challenging in the fact that you can’t really prepare for it. You kind of have to hit the ground running and accept any challenge you’re presented with.
LANGLEY: You’re never doing the same thing for two days in a row. You’re learning constantly.
MICHALOPOULOS: Another benefit of the trade is it’s not all on-aircraft work. You do get to go to different labs and that, and work on either components or… Right now, I’m at ATESS where we do modifications on aircraft so, we’ll build the projects from the ground up; we’ll test them, and once everything is ready, we’ll actually go and install it on the aircraft.
MICHALOPOULOS: I entered the trade with a pretty open mind, no real expectations, and I had no idea that I would be progressing so fast, and doing all these different kind of things. It was a very pleasant surprise and… Every day I grow to like the job more and more.
LANGLEY: Since I’ve been in the Forces, any expectations I had have been far exceeded. I have been posted to Cold Lake, Alberta where I worked on the F-18… currently, in Shearwater working with the Sea King and the Cyclone. I’ve been to Afghanistan. I have been all over Canada and all over the world within a short ten years. It’s… I can’t even explain how amazing it’s been.
AVIONICS SYSTEMS TECHNICIAN
IN THE CANADIAN FORCES