Alvan Nair AIMEAust started as an apprentice avionics maintenance engineer at Ansett Australia in 1995. Almost 30 years on, his career in the aviation industry is reaching new heights.
Engineers Australia’s 2021 Victorian Engineering Associate of the Year, Nair studied aerospace systems engineering at RMIT in the early 1990s. He joined Ansett to “get more into the trades” while using the engineering skills he had developed at university.
By the time the airline closed in 2002, Nair had become a flight simulation technical officer, training pilots on Level D simulators. These are full-flight simulators on hydraulic legs that mimic the feeling of being in the air.
“These things jump up and down on legs, effectively,” Nair said. “It brings the old saying ‘flying by the seat of your pants’ to life.
“I did recurrency training for pilots, so I got to see these young people come in with minimal hours and grow into Second Officers, First Officers and then Check Captains, who check their peers to make sure they’re safe for flying.
“Watching them grow was unbelievable, as was the technology that facilitated that growth. It was a combined human and engineering effort.”
After a brief stint in the energy industry, Nair made his way back to aviation, working for a defence force contractor as an aircraft maintenance engineer. He rose through the ranks to become a Quality and Safety Manager at Jet Aviation, where he has helped introduce one of the world’s most advanced pilot training systems — the PC-21 — to the Royal Australian Air Force across multiple bases.
“I’ve been involved since 2016, which was very early on in the program,” Nair said. “I helped set up the quality system, the maintenance system — a whole myriad of things. I use a lot of engineering methodology and military methodology.”
A flying start
Nair was first attracted to the aviation industry by how seemingly complex the systems were, yet how everything came together once he understood the separate parts.
“With all the technology and all the engineering that is behind an aircraft, when you look from the outside in, it seems very complex,” he said. “It is, but it becomes less so once you understand what it’s all about.”
Nair said the aviation industry had “changed dramatically” since he started out, including military technology and computing power crossing over into civilian applications. New technologies have also brought more crossover between engineering disciplines.
“Mechatronics is a perfect example,” he said. “You have electronic, mechanical and hydraulics all encompassed in one field.”
Nair’s job is also wide-ranging, including both managing and mentoring teams. He said being a member of Engineers Australia had helped him grow as a person and as an engineer throughout his career.
“It doesn’t matter what level of education you’ve got, if you have an affinity towards the engineering sector or engineering business, being part of Engineers Australia is a huge thing,” he said.
“You have mentors around you and there’s networking and training regardless of whether you’re an Associate, Technologist or even a Fellow … My career really has been facilitated by Engineers Australia.”
Nair hopes his Engineers Australia’s 2021 Victorian Engineering Associate of the Year award recognition would encourage young associates to be ambitious in their careers.
“Hopefully young people see this and go, ‘Oh, this guy can do it. So can I’,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about — encouraging the newer generation to step foot into the engineering field and grow.”
Learn more about the Engineers Australia Excellence Awards here.
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