By: Gabrielle Piche

RRC students learn hands-on skills from donated aircraft

A former coast guard helicopter has become a new learning tool for Red River College students.

The Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm Bo 105 stays in the Stevenson Aviation Centre. RRC held a ceremony to recognize the donation on March 7./GABRIELLE PICHÉ

The federal government donated a Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm Bo 105 helicopter to the Stevenson Aviation Campus last April. On March 7, Red River College hosted a special ceremony to recognize the donation.

College students now use the BO-105 to prepare for careers as aviation maintenance engineers.

Ian Ellchuk, a former air cadet and current RRC student, thinks practical training is necessary for future aviation mechanics and engineers.

“With a hands-on job like that, there’s only so far that a traditional classroom could take you,” Ellchuk said.

Ellchuk, 20, said students with only book-based knowledge may struggle in the industry.

“They would lack the intuition that someone with other automotive experience might have,” he said.

RRC applied for one of 10 helicopters Ottawa was giving away across Canada in September 2017, and the college signed an agreement with Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

“I can’t emphasize the importance and impact that such donations make in all aspects of our college aviation programs,” Neil Lavoie, the chair of aviation and aerospace at the Stevenson Campus, said.

Students tinker with the helicopter, which Lavoie calls a “key piece of training equipment,” and they practice skills they’ve learned in the classroom.

Jon Wiebe, a Red River College instructor, stands beside RRC’s BO-105 on March 18. The helicopter was gifted by the federal government and is now being handled by staff and students at the Stevenson Aviation Campus./GABRIELLE PICHÉ

Jon Wiebe has taught at the Stevenson Campus in Winnipeg for four years. He currently teaches Turbine Engines 2.

“Practical experience is important, so we’re pretty lucky,” Wiebe said. “It definitely gives students a little advantage.”

Wiebe said airplane and helicopter designs change depending on their make and model. A diverse group of aircrafts gives students more opportunities to learn.

Lavoie, 52, said the price of aviation-related equipment exceeds the college’s budget, so the campus takes donations when possible.

Students are constantly doing maintenance on the aircrafts and helicopters, and because of this, the machines get worn down, said Lavoie.

“We wear them out in an odd way—but we do wear them out eventually,” Lavoie said.

Students at the Stevenson campus in Winnipeg can access 10 fixed-wing aircrafts and four helicopters, including the BO-105. Southport’s Stevenson campus holds five fixed-wing aircrafts and two helicopters.