Welcome to the first of many CCAA People Spotlights, where we highlight the achievements and the excellent work being done by people throughout our industry. The Canadian aviation and aerospace sector is full of talented and dedicated individuals and our very first spotlight is a great example.
This year, the CCAA’s own Mike Doiron celebrated his 50th year working in aviation and aerospace, an impressive feat to say the least! Mike’s passion, dedication, and experience gives him a keen insight into the evolution of the industry that is hard to match. From his time as a transport pilot, his tenure as the CEO of Moncton Flight School to working with the CCAA, Mike has a wealth of industry experience and extensive knowledge of training and skills development.
Q: What made you decide to enter the aviation and aerospace sector?
“From a very incredibly young age, I've always had an interest in aviation. My uncle and godfather worked for Air Canada for 40 plus years. He was one of the first stewards with Air Canada and one of the first men to be hired for the position. My father served in the Air Force during the war, and he always had a keen interest in aviation.
Being a member of a family with aviation in its veins, I of course joined the Canadian Air Cadets. Joining up at the age 12, I spent six great years in the Cadets where I got my glider and private pilot licenses. Then I decided: hey, this is a lot of fun, maybe I should do this for a living…”
Q: What is your role at the CCAA?
“I'm a regional representative and trainer. I do primarily Atlantic Canada but help right across the country if no one is available to conduct a certain course. For the last two years, because of the COVID, I've been helping the CCAA with developing their live training webinar format.
With my background in safety management, quality management, and so on, it was a quite natural fit and plus, I'm a bit of a computer geek. I did a bit of research and discovered that there were already built virtual tools for virtual learning and by introducing a couple of new pieces of software, we were able to still provide quality training even though we were effectively in lockdown.”
Q: How did you find the industry’s response to the shift to training online?
“I think at first there might have been a little bit of a hesitation, because let's face it, a lot of people had never used Zoom, Teams, or other such platforms prior to COVID. But what I discovered is that once people experienced the interactivity in the virtual classroom, students often mentioned that although they still preferred the classroom, this type of training was about as close as you're going to get.
And it’s not just the people taking the workshops who appreciated it. It’s also the operators. When I was CEO of the Moncton Flight College, I would have to send my employee away to train. Sending an employee away for a two-day workshop, let's say in Montreal, means losing that person from the shop floor four days. Where I would have spent upwards of $2,500 to train a worker for two days. I can now do it for about $1,000 and less time away from work.
We work hard in our CCAA workshops to make sure that participants’ questions are answered. I tell my students that should you have a question about something that we covered and are unsure about it, I invite them to give me a call or send me an e-mail to discuss it. That’s just part of the package…”
Q: Out of your years working in the sector, what moment stands out to you as the most memorable?
“I guess my first solo flight is a big one – that’s always a big step for a pilot. But I think my most memorable experience was when I was CEO of Moncton Flight College, and we conducted a program in partnership with Canadian Aviation Electronics (CAE). We conducted the 1st formal multi pilot training program and we graduated two classes of twelve students. I’m very proud that we succeeded at achieving all their goals and graduated them on time.
The feedback we got was that our partners were blown away with the quality of the program we had created. That experience proved to me that flight training does not have to be the way we've done it for 60 years. If we use a little bit of innovation, a little bit of smarts, we’re going to get some phenomenal results.”
Q: What would you say is the most interesting place your career has taken you?
“I’ve been incredibly fortunate to travel the world with my career because I spent 20 years at Transport Canada and as well as in industry. I've done workshops in South Korea, China, Panama, Cameroon, Ghana, throughout Europe and in the US. I've been very lucky to have traveled the world and been involved in aviation education in one form or another.”
Q: What would you say is the primary cause of the manpower shortage the industry is facing? Is compensation the top contributor?
“I'm not sure if there is really a leading issue per se, but I believe there is a lot of competition from other sectors for talent. On top of that, a lot of young men and women don’t fully understand that if they want to work in aviation, it's not just the coveted airline pilot position. There are a huge number of other opportunities, from working as a mechanic or tech with a specialty operator or an aerial applicator to being on an air ambulance crew and much, much more.
When we were recruiting for the Moncton Flight School we would set up a booth where it was clear we were selling pilot training. But at the time. most young women visiting our booth would ask if we did flight attendant training. Absolutely nothing wrong with that, it’s a great career. But we would ask them if they ever considered being a pilot? And the majority would say, well I didn't know I could do that. Many had this preconceived idea that no, that's a guy thing. Well, I can tell you without a doubt that it’s not. Flying an airplane is what's between your ears, hands, and feet. That's got nothing to do with gender.
The industry needs to reach young people just before they get into junior high and work together to make a much stronger push to introduce aviation and aerospace as viable careers. When I talk to young men and women that I trained years ago, few of them, if any, have ever said I wish they had done something else.”
Q: If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?
“A tighter integration between the operators and the training providers, whether it's flying schools, maintenance, colleges, doesn't matter. I think we're getting there, or at least we're heading in that direction. I just don't think it's happening fast enough.
If the position I'm training for has a national certification standard, great! That's often why we train. But we need to remember that the employers also have certain requirements that they want us to meet and that's the piece that over the years has not been fully flushed out.
What I would like to see is a much better collaboration between airlines, corporate operators, and others. For example, regularly meeting with flying schools and auditing their training programs to ensure what they are being taught is what the industry needs. I think this needs to be done industry-wide, and not just by CCAA or on an ad hoc level.”
Q: What’s Next for you now that you have celebrated your 50th anniversary?
“I'm working on a bunch of different projects. Continuing with the CCAA to expand our training envelope, our courses and so forth. This is incredibly exciting for me. On a personal level, I'm putting together various education-oriented projects through my consulting business. I've also been working for the last couple of years on writing a comprehensive book on safety management systems.
Some people say, Mike, you’re getting kind of old now, maybe you ought to consider retiring. I say no way. I just finished fifty-plus years in aviation and I’m looking forward to sixty plus. I have no intentions of retiring because I love working, I love airplanes and I love the people in the business. I also really think there's an incredible number of people in the industry who feel the same as I do.”
Mike Doiron is the Canadian Council of Aviation and Aerospace’s Chief Trainer, but he is so much more. He is an example of the bedrock that supports the Canadian aviation and aerospace sector. We look forward to seeing what comes next with Mike and are fortunate that he is taking those next steps alongside us. Mike, congratulations on your 50 years in the industry, and here’s to your 60th!