Technical services officer

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Prue works for Gippsland Aeronautics, a company that designs and manufactures specialist utility aircraft. She manages and coordinates all the documentation that needs to accompany new aircraft before they are declared airworthy and ready for sale. Find out more:

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Fact file

Job description: Prue ensures that every single component used in the manufacture of the GA8 Airvan is traceable, right back to the raw materials that are used to form the basic shape of the airframe. By doing this every aircraft develops a history. She also works closely with the engineering and quality assurance department and liaises with outside contractors, operators and airworthiness authorities to ensure that everybody has the latest airworthiness documentation.

Subjects studied: Maths (Specialist), Maths (Methods), Chemistry, Physics, English, Japanese (to Year 11)

Further training: Numerous industry-based courses through CASA (Civil Aviation Safety Authority)

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Profile

Rather than asking what Prue does for a living, perhaps we should ask what she doesn't do. A champion horsewoman who competed at a national level, Prue lived in Belgium for four and a half years. While she was there, she was training horses and competing in events and also managed to learn Flemish, a notoriously difficult European language.

Back in Australia, she is close to gaining her commercial pilot's licence, is accompanying one of the company's planes over to Indonesia to help with disaster relief and is busy planning a trek to Everest base camp next year!

But let's go back to the beginning. After completing Year 12, Prue was offered a place in a radiography course but decided to defer her studies and travel while she decided what she really wanted to do with her life. She says now that that is one of the best decisions she ever made.

After returning to Australia from her many adventures in Europe, she still wasn't quite sure what she wanted to do, so she looked into the family business; manufacturing aircraft. She starting working on reception and the more she learned about the company and the industry, the more she liked it.

Gippsland Aeronautics design and manufacture an 8-seater utility aircraft capable of carrying a one tonne load. Prue refers to them as like a ute, but a plane. These planes are made to the latest standards and offer the most up to date safety features in their class. As a result, the company is taking orders from all over the world and has grown from employing 30 people to employing more than 130. They are even sending one of their planes to Indonesia to assist with disaster relief, as it can handle a big load, yet doesn't need a large airfield to take off and land.

But as the company has grown, they have had to make sure that they keep up with all the regulations and safety requirements for building a plane. Every single element used to manufacture the plane has to be documented, the part number, where it came from, what batch it was, everything, so the plane can be sold with what is known as a full aircraft history. From the smallest bolt or piece of wiring to raw materials like sheets of metal, it has to be recorded.

Prue has the important job of making sure all these records are kept accurately. She also has to ensure that once the plane has been built, it passes all safety and airworthiness inspections before it is issued a certificate of airworthiness and can be sold. This involves, among other things, at least three inspections for each assembly as well as a number of test flights.

To help her manage this incredibly important and responsible task, Prue has completed a Certificate of Airworthiness course with CASA. This means she is able to assist all the operators with the technical and service documentation. When she has finished her training, Prue will be authorised to sign the certificate of Airworthiness (and even conduct the test flights once she has her pilot's licence).

For an industry she thought would be a little boring, Prue has found that she loves everything about manufacturing. "I've learnt everything from where the different assemblies go, to how to form a piece of metal, to how to inspect and aircraft. I'm now running my own section. We were issued the first production certificate in Australia by CASA and I really think we are trailblazing for the industry as a whole."

Prue is looking forward to learning more and getting more responsibilities within the company. In the short term, she wants to be able to issue airworthiness certificates herself, learn about all the regulations and be able to inspect the aircraft. Further down the track, she wants to run the company someday.

From the sounds of it, I think she'll achieve all of that, and climb Everest too.

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Job specs

Civil and structural engineering associates provide technical support to civil engineers and civil engineering technologists in the research, design, construction, operations and maintenance of projects such as roads, airports, railways, buildings, bridges, dams and drainage systems.

Duties:

Civil and structural engineering associates may perform the following tasks:

  • help to estimate costs, prepare specifications for materials and carry out surveying and drafting
  • prepare working drawings, plans and designs for construction work
  • help in programming the work, checking materials and inspecting the work
  • maintain close contact with construction workers and project managers
  • use computers to produce designs, detailed drawings and documentation
  • check that finished works are within specifications, regulations and contract provisions
  • inspect civil engineering works and organise and supervise maintenance and repair work.

Personal requirements:

  • able to identify, analyse and solve problems
  • good oral and written communication skills
  • capable of accurate, detailed work
  • aptitude for computing and design
  • practical and creative
  • able to work independently
  • able to accept responsibility
  • able to work as part of a team

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Getting started

Find out more about a career in engineering:

Institute of Public Works Engineering Australia (IPWEA)
Level 12, 447 Kent St Sydney, NSW 2000
Tel: (02) 9267 6677
Email: ipwea@ipwea.org.au 

Engineers Australia (Victoria Division)
21 Bedford St North Melbourne, VIC 3051
Tel: (03) 9329 8188
Email: vic@engineersaustralia.org.au

Find out more about this career path at myfuture.edu.au (new window) (Note: free registration is required to access the myfuture site).

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