Campus Life  

OC graduate soars toward gold in Aero Skills tournament

A female trades student with medium length blonde hair looks off to the side.

An Okanagan College graduate is flying high after winning gold at the 2021 Aero Skills Tournament in Kelowna.

Desarae Craig currently works at KF Aerospace as a structures technician, but before she got there, she was an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer – Structures (AME-S) student at Okanagan College. Since graduating in October 2020, her work at KF has included converting old passenger planes into cargo planes, using everything that was taught during her program. 

“All the skills I learned have helped me so far,” Craig says. “Everything we learn in school applies in some way or form in your working life, because they’re all relevant.”

So when the Aero Skills Tournament rolled around, she says she felt ready to participate.

The Aero Skills Tournament is a U.S. and Canada-based aircraft skills competition, developed by Aircraft Technologies Group (ATG). Jay Logie is the founder of ATG and he says the goal of the competition has always been to generate interest in structures, mechanics, avionics and composites. 

The competition features solo and team events, where participants show off their skills through various tasks including drilling, riveting and assembling structures. Overall, it showcases to the audience how the work is done, and how well the participants do their tasks under pressure.

“There isn’t anything like this in the world right now,” Logie says. “Everybody who participates walks away excited and ready to learn more and do more.”

He says Craig won the tournament because of the quality of her work. Logie says scores are based on quality of work (60 per cent) and the time a participant takes to do the work (40 per cent). If two participants end up in a tie, the winner is determined based on their quality score.

“Desarae competed with the other juniors. She took a little longer than the others. She took her time to work on her quality, but it paid off in the end,” he says, adding it wasn’t a surprise that an OC graduate placed in the tournament this year.

“We’ve found that people who go through Okanagan College learn their skills really well and it’s always evident when they compete in Aero Skills,” he says.

Craig says the win is a beginner’s validation for her, confirming that the work she produces is good quality and encourages her to keep going.

“I would really like to see girls get into this,” she says. “It’s a fun, fast-paced industry and there are new tasks every day and you’re always learning. I hope my presence and win inspires someone to get into this industry too.”

For information about OC’s Aircraft Maintenance Engineer – Structures program and the Aerospace Department, visit: https://www.okanagan.bc.ca/aircraft-maintenance-engineer-category-s-structures.

If you are interested in working on aircraft or even, already a trades person, there are openings nationwide for all skill levels in the aviation industry. To take a look at a new platform from ATG or check out Aero Skills pictures please go to https://www.aviationNETworX.com.

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