A Day at the Hangar with Erika Nixon
Meet Erika! Our Maintenance Manager for Harbour Air Aerospace Services (HAAS)! She’s been working in aircraft maintenance since 2002 and says “the years have flown by!” (no pun intended). A fun fact: Erika had the opportunity to board the final flight of Harbour Air’s last Piston Single Otter (C‑GLCP) before it was converted to turbine. “Flying on a piston otter ‑ that was a great experience!” We chatted with Erika about her experience with HAAS, day‑to‑day life, and upcoming projects she and the team are working on! Buckle up and fly into the world of aircraft maintenance at Harbour Air Aerospace Services (HAAS)!
How long have you been working for HAAS?
I started working in the Maintenance department at the beginning of October in 2002. I find it hard to believe, the years have flown by (no pun intended)!
What does an average day look like for you at HAAS?
One of the many great things about working here is that there is no average day! Every day is different. My position is amazing because I get to work with so many departments in the company – maintenance, structures, paint shop, records, QA, engineering, health and safety, flight operations, front counter staff, reservations, marketing, accounting, employment support services, dock operations, IT, Customer Care and air crew, not to mention our valued 3rd party customers. The only constant in each day is that everyone works together to provide the safest and highest quality experience and product for our customers.
What or who got you into aviation?
It was a very fortunate happenstance. I saw an ad in a newspaper for a position in aircraft technical records (yes, looking for jobs in a newspaper was still a thing back then). One of my neighbours worked in flight operations at Harbour Air and asked her about the company ‑ she raved about it. She was also kind enough to offer to drop off my resume and put in a good word for me, and I received an interview! After the interview, I was excited about the position and the company, so I kept phoning to follow up and tell them so. I only got through once – and was given the job! After I had worked there for a few months, they told me that one of the things they liked about me was how keen I appeared about the role. When I asked what they meant, they said “well you called us so many times after the interview”. I was a bit embarrassed… who knew they had call display?
What are the requirements / training for your position?
Prior to working with Harbour Air, I worked in a very safety sensitive environment. I spent a decade working with the Lions Society of BC and oversaw the operation of their biggest service ‑ the three Easter Seals camps in the province. Each year we supported approximately 90 staff members and over 800 clients and it taught me a lot about working with and supporting an amazing team of individuals and campers. Everything aviation specific I learned on the job from the experts here – you couldn’t ask for better teachers (despite their strange obsession with acronyms). Knowledgeable, passionate, and patient!
What do you enjoy the most about working for HAAS?
The people. We are lucky enough to have attracted a crew of highly talented individuals who are experts in their respective fields. Having the opportunity to work alongside and learn from so many coworkers who work in so many different areas of aviation, is simply incredible. Not a day goes by that I don’t learn something from them!
What is your favourite aircraft or livery? And why?
I have a soft spot for the Canada beaver (C‑FFHA) and the Canada Otter (C‑FODH). These were very intricate designs for our paint department to carry out and they did a magnificent job! If I had to pick only one though, I would pick the otter. This is aircraft serial number 3, which makes it the third single otter ever produced, though you can’t tell by looking at her!
What is your favourite past project you got to work on?
Well… this is going to sound boring to some… but I absolutely love researching aircraft records. My favourite projects are ones that allow me to spend time looking through them. This kind of research is like being a historian and a detective all in one. You learn so much about the history of each aircraft that they develop personalities. Seeing entries from the people who cared for them and flew them over the years, seeing what parts of the world they flew in – amazing.
Any aircraft record you found interesting?
They all have a unique and rich history, so it is hard to choose a favourite. Some of these aircraft started out life with the military. Both C‑FJHA and C‑FHAA were in the Royal Canadian Air Force, and C‑FHAD and C‑GEND were in the United States Army and deployed in Vietnam. C‑GOPP started with the US Army, and then it went to Ontario where it was operated by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) – where she received her aircraft ident. If you look at older pictures of this aircraft, you can see the rotating beacon it sported while working with the Police. After working so hard in their military and police service years, I like to imagine that they are happy flying our beautiful coast helping to connect people from so many different communities.
Any new and exciting projects on the go?!
Yes! Our engineering and maintenance departments and our partners at magniX are working hard on the e‑plane of course! And we have been developing a specialized IFD (Individual Floatation Device) for both the Harbour Air fleet and to provide to other floatplane operators. Our maintenance, structures and paint shop are overhauling, maintaining, and refreshing paint on the Harbour Air fleet and our 3rdparty customer aircraft. We have also recently launched an Aerospace Instagram account and Facebook account and it is exciting to see them grow!
Do you have a favourite “Harbour Air Moment”?
It’s hard to pick just one… I did get the opportunity to fly on the flight that our last piston Single Otter (C‑GLCP) took before we converted the aircraft to turbine. Flying on a piston otter ‑ that was a great experience!
Tell us a fun fact about yourself!
I was very young the first time I had the opportunity to fly in a large aircraft. I was so excited for my first flight – it was all I talked about for weeks before it happened. When big day finally came, and we landed and got off the aircraft, I asked my mom how much longer I had to wait before we could fly in an airplane. After some confusion, she finally deduced that I thought we had been on a bus the whole flight, not an aircraft. I am a bit better at identifying aircraft now ‑ at least I don’t confuse them with a ground vehicle!