Home / Day in the Life of a Quality and Aviation Safety Manager in East Sale, Australia

Day in the Life of a Quality and Aviation Safety Manager in East Sale, Australia

Asia Pacific, Australia, Defence

Recognized as Victoria’s Engineering Associate of the Year 2021, Alvan Nair, Quality and Aviation Safety Manager at PTS East Sale, tells us about his journey as an engineer while expanding on the challenges and satisfactions of his role.

Congratulations on being awarded Victoria’s Engineering Associate of the Year 2021! Could you tell us more about your journey as an engineer and the experience you’ve gained?

My journey as an engineer was an easy pathway in my case – being interested in aircraft and the support mechanism surrounding aircraft operations was the catalyst. My interest in aviation was piqued at a very young age which was the precursor for my family’s move from Fiji to Australia. Towards the end of my schooling, I discovered that I could not join the Air Force as a pilot as I wear glasses and that forced me to rethink my future in aviation. I later underwent tertiary training as an Aerospace System Engineer at RMIT University before entering the airline industry as an Avionics Aircraft Maintenance Engineer. The organisation recognised my abilities and provided industry recognised training with qualifications in three aircraft trades (on-aircraft maintenance, in workshops and Level D flight training devices) – turning me into a well-rounded technician. I also gained experience in the aircraft supply and logistics field as an aircraft spares assessor whilst at Ansett Australia. I then left aviation for the oil and gas industry specialising in electronic/electrical/mechanical maintenance and customer service, receiving multiple customer commendations during my two years there.

The calling to return to the aviation was too great though and I re-entered the industry through the Defence aviation sector in 2004 with Airflite on the PC-9/A aircraft type and have effectively remained within this industry for the past 18 years. With the PC-9/As, I progressed from technical to senior technical roles before eventually becoming their Quality and Safety Manager overseeing Defence and Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) sites. I also spent some time with CASA as a senior Corporate Manager in the airworthiness and safety compliance space whilst supporting and leading the creation of a Part 145 CASA/EASA approved organisation for which I became a CASA dual Form 4 holder before joining Hawker Pacific in 2016. 

My expertise, understanding of customer needs and perspectives gained over the past 18 years with the Australian Air Force has greatly supported the success in my present Defence Force environment. 

Can you tell us a little more about your role as a Quality and Aviation Safety Manager with our Defence business?

I joined Hawker Pacific in 2016 at the initial delivery stage of the Pilot Training Systems (PTS) program for the Royal Australian Air Force as their program Quality and Aviation Safety Manager. Through the immense and intimate experience I gained with the PC-9/A program, I oversaw and guided the introduction of the compliance and maintenance system supporting the PTS program to meet customer operational requirements. The program attained operating approval as an AMO (Approved Maintenance Organisation) in April 2017 along with my approval as a Form 4 holder as the Quality Manager. All our 4 PC-21 sites gained approval to operate as approved maintenance sites in 2019.

The role also requires me to keep updated on changes to compliance rules and operating needs for the customer daily as military operations are different from civil operations. My experience within military operations has exposed me to in-depth knowledge of its requirements and ways of thinking – this helps me better understand the challenges which arise and identify solutions to address them holistically. Also being a people leader, I practice an open-door policy with the PTS staff to ensure that they are appropriately supported and engaged. If we detect any issues which may compromise our level of service and support, regardless whether they are related to personnel, compliance, business, customer or infrastructure, these are relayed to the appropriate site or accountable managers to initiate reactive and corrective actions. Achieving system compliance, providing optimal customer support and achieving contract obligations are paramount to the success of my role and that of the business.

“Simply, working with the team – whether it is East Sale, Williamtown, Edinburgh or Pearce. The team is my work family and as a typical family, issues are resolved together for the best interests of us all and ultimately, the PTS PC-21 program.”

What is a typical day for you like in East Sale?

I like starting early and I’m usually at work well before 06:30am. I engage with my colleagues at East Sale as soon as I walk in as I find this sets them in a positive frame of mind and allows me to learn about any issues that require my immediate attention, which in turn keeps my colleagues’ workflow steady and efficient. Some days start with facility and operational issues which require immediate attention and this is important as they ensure a safe working environment for my colleagues. As soon as those are addressed and resolved, transition to my daily compliance oversight and compliance support duties. However, daily interruptions to my workflow are commonplace and I have learned to be prepared these and to address them efficiently. Being able to do this successfully keeps the team motivated and focused on delivering our contractual obligations and requirements as a team. I also maintain ongoing engagement with staff from Pilatus, Lockheed Martin, Ventia and the Commonwealth of Australia (CoA) daily to ensure the lines of communications to meet contractual obligations are clear and defined. In truth, each day is different so being understanding, adaptable and approachable is key to being a successful Quality & Aviation Safety Manager in the Australian Defence space.

What are some of the challenges you face and how do you address them?

It can be very challenging for personnel at all levels to properly understand Defence Aviation Safety Australia (DASA) regulations, and as humans we sometimes have difficulty in adapting to ongoing changes. I can assess this quickly and arrange corrective actions through training sessions – my open-door policy and investigations to identify knowledge gaps and plan suitable outcomes definitely helps me do this. Additionally, my audit and compliance monitoring routines do get interrupted frequently, sometimes multiple times a day! I have learnt to be precise in returning to my work after disruptions and being efficient with my time. Being the only person looking after the compliance of the largest PC-21 operations site in Australia with remote operational site support is definitely challenging as you have to be very precise with my methods and delivery to ensure continual compliance is achieved – this is where continuous communication is key. 

What is your favourite part about being a quality and safety manager at East Sale?

Simply, working with the team – whether it is East Sale, Williamtown, Edinburgh or Pearce. The team is my work family and as a typical family, issues are resolved together for the best interests of us all and ultimately, the PTS PC-21 program.

Thank you Alvan, for your dedication to your field, your work and the team!???????

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