Young aircraft mechanic aces national competition

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by Michelle LaBelle / Carillon NewsWhen Jonathan Epp was crowned the best aircraft maintenance engineer apprentice in the country with a gold medal in a national competition, it didn’t come as a surprise to his co-workers.

“It wasn’t a shock…I always expected 110 percent from him but could only get 100,” joked Kerry Nickel aircraft maintenance supervisor at Harv’s Air Service in Steinbach about Epp’s work ethic.

Spend a few minutes with Epp, though, and anyone will discover that being passionate about planes is just something that comes as second nature to himit’s practically in his blood.

“Aviation is something that has interested me since …before I can remember,” said the Steinbach resident. “I just love airplanes.”

Not only is he the best aircraft maintenance engineer apprentice in Canada he can fly planes, and teach others how to as well.

After coming to Manitoba from the town of Blaine Lake, Sask. (considered part of the Prince Albert area) in 1992, Epp first settled in at Providence College in Otterburne.

What attracted him to the Bible school?

Naturally, the aviation training the school offers. He graduated in 1996 with his bachelor of arts degree from the school and, not willing to sit still after getting his pilot’s licence, went took extra training to receive his instructor rating in 1997.

As a full-time flight instructor, the 28-year-old airplane aficionado worked for two years (all at Harv’s Air where he has been ever since his college days) before he took up a new challenge. He decided he would become a certified AME (aircraft maintenance engineer).

Enrolling in the four-year classroom and work experience program at Southport (in Portage la Prairie), Epp has almost realized that goal.

Two gold medals

He now has two gold medals in order to compete at the Skills Canada national competition, he had to achieve a first-place finish provincially. He was a part of the Manitoba team flown out to Kitchener last month for the competitions.

While there (for four days) Epp didn’t have much time for fun or relaxation since the competition itself consisted of a painstaking sextet of timed tasks spread out over a day-and-a-half. For most of the stations, the competitors (the best from each province) were given two hours to complete the assigned project.

In his first task, Epp completed a metals project involving a lot of riveting.

The next two stations involved a series of calculations and an inspection on an airplane.

“It was tiring because it was a bit stressful, also because there was a time limit, plus, I still was hoping to do my best against the other competitors,” Epp noted.

Finally, participants were to set up a control system, remove and re-install a propeller, and remove the ignition system from an engine and then replace it.

All in all, the meticulous mechanic admitted he wasn’t too sure on how he’d finish, mentioning that he knew he made some mistakes.

Nickel emphasized it is that type of dedication and skill Epp brings with him that makes him a crucial part of the small airport.

“He gets straight As in school, and has some very unique hobbies that add to his expertise in the shop…he is a very valuable asset to our team,” said Nickel.

In an interview at his workplace in the Harv’s Air hangar, the modest Epp even failed to mention that he builds remote control (mini-airplanes) and is building his own RV-3 plane.

“I’ve been building model planes since I was a kid, so I guess you could say building the airplane is just an extension of that but you can’t fly in model planes,” Epp explained.

His immediate plans are to become a certified AME he just has one last exam to write and to continue fixing planes during the week and teaching on the weekend. (Harv’s also employs Epp as a weekend flight instructor.)

“Whether I’m flying, or working on an airplane, I enjoy all aspects of aviation…working here is good in that way, it gives me that flexibility.”

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