Richard Johnstone

Aerospace Instructor at British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT).

I was born/grew up in: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

I now live in: Delta, BC, Canada

I completed my training/education at: Royal Canadian Air Force supplemented by industry certifications. I learned my craft in the military and then continued on to get on the job training and practical experience working in the industry throughout the world with multiple employers. Through these employers, I continued to learn and get industry certifications.

Describe what you do at work.

Richard Johnstone - Royal Canadian Air Force Image

In the course of my day, I teach in the classroom then I demonstrate principles of aircraft maintenance technology in a hanger with aircraft to ensure the students have a well-rounded understanding of the Aerospace industry standards of theory & practical knowledge. The industry demands that the students’ knowledge and understanding by very high as it is important for the safety of passengers, flight crew and the aircraft.

I use math and physics everyday as part of the information I’m teaching the students. These are applied to issues related to flight and aircraft performance. I do a lot of research using computers to access online resources.

Problem solving is a big part of working in the aerospace industry. We complete logical trouble shooting to ensure the air-worthiness of aircraft and their components. When something is not working properly we have to diagnose what the problem is and fix it. We do lots of calculations to ensure the cargo and passengers’ weight is appropriate and balanced to ensure the plane does not crash. Related to the problem solving is decision making. Aircraft Maintenance Engineers (AMEs) have to make multiple decisions daily; all related to the air-worthiness and safety of the aircraft. We use our STEM skills to understand and diagnose problems, to interpret the manufacturer’s and government documents, and to solve issues we find with the aircraft.

When I was a student I enjoyed:

How does your job affect people’s lives?

My career in the aerospace industry has been very important as the skills that I applied ensured that people arrived safely to their destinations. Keeping aircraft in air worthy condition has been very satisfying and now I teach these same abilities to the next generation. This will be even more important as we move to the next frontier – space.

What motivates you in your career?

I aim to inspire students to be the best of the best so they always strive to improve the industry by continuing to learn throughout their career. Students learn that people will arrive safely at their destination because the Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (AME) has learned how to apply delayed gratification. I am also an explorer at heart with the passion to look beyond planet Earth. I am also a perfectionist which is essential when errors cannot be made. An error in this industry can cause loss of life. I promote a “3 A Program”: Ability, Attitude and Aptitude in my workplace. Students who follow my triple A program become leaders in the Aerospace Industry! And that’s very satisfying to me.

When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:

Describe your career path to this career.

Richard Johnstone - Royal Canadian Air Force ImageI started at 17 in the Royal Canadian Air Force. By the age of 20, I had flown supersonic in a CF-5 Freedom Fighter Jet. After leaving military service, I pursued a civilian career in Aviation and obtained my Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (AME) license for airplanes and helicopters including my airplane pilot license. I served in Vietnam as a special operations member including operations in Eastern Africa. I then went on to work around the world working on Helicopters and Aircraft. I spent 2 years in Baku, Azerbaijan (Part of the old USSR). I have travelled around the world 8 times working in the Aviation industry. I have never had to pay to travel and have been on every continent in the world except for Australia and the Antarctic. I now work teaching my craft to the next generation of aerospace pioneers.

What activities do you like to do outside of work?

I inspire young people interested in the Aviation industry through an organization called Skills Canada British Columbia. I also like to build model spaceships to see if their design would work in deep space.

I also do a lot of volunteering with groups that promote careers in the skilled trades. I am a judge for the Aircraft Maintenance Skills BC provincial skills competition. I am a member of the National Technical Committee (NTC) for Skills Canada National Skills Aircraft Maintenance team. I am also the Chief Expert for Aircraft Maintenance competition at the WorldSkills international competitions. With invitations from governments of various countries, I travel around the world promoting careers in the skilled trades. I will be heading to Zambia in March 2016 to help this country develop their training system as they prepare to participate at the next WorldSkills event in 2017 at Abu Dhabi, UAE.

What advice or encouragement would you give others seeking a similar career?

Pursue your desire and passion by either joining the Royal Canadian Air Force or going to a post-secondary institution. Here you will learn the skills needed in the aviation industry.

Let’s Talk Science is grateful to Skills Canada Newfoundland and Labrador for connecting us with this individual.

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