Ellen Barron, a graduate of Red River College’s Aircraft Maintenance Engineer Diploma program, has a career that’s really going places.
Since graduating from RRC in 2005, Barron, an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer, has worked in Edmonton, Ottawa, and Sweden in various aircraft engine repair, maintenance, and audit facilities.
Barron grew up on a farm in rural Manitoba, always surrounded by machinery. “I would help rip apart tractor engines,” Barron said with an enthusiasm only a mechanical buff would understand.
After taking a year off from high school, Barron decided to stake out a career for herself. “I had so many interests and they were really broad,” she explained. “So I thought, ‘I like to travel, and I like mechanics, and I like to fly but I don’t want to be a pilot.’” It was Barron’s grandmother who finally suggested she work as an aircraft mechanic. “I thought, ‘I guess someone needs to fix those,’” she added.
Barron would find RRC’s diploma program in Aircraft Maintenance Engineering a perfect fit. “They gave us the theory we needed. We had a bit of practical,” Barron explained. “That’s why I liked the RRC course, because I got to take some of my theory, go out and actually use it.”
Barron entered the program in 2001. “I came into the industry at a really weird time,” she pointed out. “The industry was really bad back in 2001 after the towers fell. Of course, the economy is dictated by how many people fly. So that was a concern for aircraft engineers, like myself.” But Barron didn’t let the tragedy of 9/11 stop her from thriving.
After finishing her Level 1 in 2001, Barron began working in Ottawa at The National Research Council, where she received her Level 1 Apprenticeship. After completing her term in Ottawa in 2002, Barron returned to RRC to complete her Level 2 training. She followed that up with her Level 2 Apprenticeship at the Brandon Flying Club, working on spray planes, and “taking whatever I could get,” she noted. Barron would return after her work in Brandon to RRC to finish her Levels 3 and 4.
Once Barron had completed her Level 4 in 2005, she landed a job at Allied Wings, the air force training base for Manitoba, located in Southport. “I got a lot of experience there in modifications. We converted the helicopters into military planes — a really great experience for me,” Barron said. “I also got my AME (Aircraft Maintenance Engineer License) at that time.”
Barron then spread her wings, moving to Sweden, where she worked in helicopter maintenance in a small repair shop. “There wasn’t a lot of aviation in that town, so we were getting a lot of things from Norway and the surrounding areas,” Barron recalled. “We also did a lot of audits. The European Union was requiring that every single aircraft in Europe be audited to make sure that they were air-worthy.”
By May 2010, home was calling. Barron moved back to Winnipeg and began working for Novex Helitrades. “I want to stay in one company for a while, make a commitment, and put some roots down,” she stated.
As for the future, well, Barron has a lot of plans. She hopes to open her own aircraft maintenance and repair shop here in Winnipeg, to continue doing the job she loves.
“I like the versatility of it. I like that I can get a really good combination of office work, outside work, and mechanical work, and I like that I can use my brain and it’s not always monotonous,” Barron explained. “There’s a lot of responsibility in this industry and a huge attention to detail. There’s no room for mistakes. You have to be confident, but not over confident.”
Although Barron can find the pressure of the job stressful, she still knows there’s no other career that she would rather do. “That’s why I liked the Red River apprenticeship course. I got to take some of my theory, go out, and actually use it. There’s nothing like getting out in a hanger and seeing what the job is actually like. That’s the best.”
Profile by Katherine Dow (first year, Creative Communications)