“Accountability is our Responsibility” is the new mantra forging open communications and proactivity among the maintenance team for Air Georgian and R1 Airlines. REAL’s new Director of Aircraft Maintenance, Steve Hennige is fostering and building a culture based on safety being a top priority, and the core to everything his team does to ensure a highly reliable product for customers and investors.
Steve’s role is to set direction with the maintenance teams, build consistencies between the Air Georgian and R1 Airlines operation while ensuring high standards in aircraft safety, reliability, performance and on-time delivery that meet or exceed all stakeholder expectations.
While Steve has been industriously implementing a full review of maintenance, we’ve managed to get some of his time for an interview. Here’s what he had to say:
What interested you in the role of Director of Maintenance for Regional Express Aviation (REAL)?
In 2011 I moved out of aviation and joined an automotive parts manufacturing company. Although, I learned a tremendous amount and was mentored by extraordinary people, I did not fully realize how passionate I was for the aviation industry. So coming back to where I first started in my career was an easy choice. I thrive stepping out of my comfort zone and experiencing new challenges. This role touches on both of those. Seeing the growth potential under REAL, and the opportunity to expand on my aviation knowledge at a new level is appealing to me.
Why and/or how did you get into aircraft maintenance? What do you love about this line of work?
During a visit to a large Air Canada hangar in Winnipeg, I was mesmerized by the giant aircraft that surrounded me. I thought at that time, “how cool would it be to work on machines that defy the rationalization of gravity”. It wasn’t until 1997 when living in Thunder Bay, that an opportunity for employment arose to rebuild Beavers at an AMO that I gained interest in becoming a Licensed Aircraft Engineer. What I love most about my trade is the responsibility behind what I do as an engineer. Every task, every inspection comes with incredible accountability to aviation safety. It’s the responsibility and the accountability of what we do that gives many professionals in my field the personal sense of ownership and pride.
What key skills do you bring to your role with REAL?
Outside of aviation I learned the importance of balance and synergy when it comes to meeting the needs of key stakeholders such as employees, customers and investors. All these needs must be met in unison. This unique blend and understanding, mixed with my knowledge of aviation is what I am truly going to enjoy implementing in my new role.
What are some of the things you are focusing on in the next while for Air Georgian and R1? What are some of your immediate goals for REAL?
Seeing as how I’m still new in town, I’m currently taking into account the importance of building relationships, team development and trying to fulfill any immediate maintenance related requirements that will increase employee engagement, thus increasing safety and reliability. I’m also trying to understand what cultural norms may or may not be conducive to instilling safety throughout. As for REAL, my immediate goals are to implement a full review of the maintenance program and department structure, an employee recruitment and development strategy as well as a full audit of our operations.
How are you ensuring passenger safety is met in your role and within your department?
Every maintenance professional places passenger safety at the forefront. My role is to ensure all maintenance performed is completed to the highest standards of airworthiness. This is done through ongoing training on process and procedures as well as our Safety Management System. Our goal is to maintain the customer confidence that we provide by being a safe and reliable product.
Is there anything you want to tell Air Georgian and R1 clients/passengers when it comes to plane maintenance and safety?
We are without question, a highly regulated industry. All of our maintenance practices and platforms are approved by Transport Canada. We have the book of all books, CARs (Canadian Air Regulations). To us there is no deviating off course. We undergo rigorous audits both internal from our QA team to external customer audits and regulatory review from Transport Canada. Maintenance safety is built into how we do business and we train all employees on the Safety Management System.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
We have incredible people doing incredible things. Each one is focused on the future and sustainability of our business. The most enjoyable aspect of this job is to be surrounded by the numerous professionals and working along side them.
What is the future for Air Georgian and R1 in terms of maintenance? Can you give us a little glimpse of what’s coming?
The future of maintenance at Air Georgian and R1 Airlines is positive and very exciting. I can say that both areas of maintenance will see the same focus in how we do business. Maintenance will transform into a fully integrated Maintenance Management System that will see strong growth in reliability and asset care. As maintenance costs and parts cost rise, and trade specific demographics decrease, a 360-degree review of our current structure will be built to ensure sustainability.
How will you communicate and foster the importance of safety within your department?
Communication is the catalyst to all things. Everyone in the maintenance department must be in the know. We have internal newsletters, an employee website that each employee has access to daily, regular shift handovers, more importantly living the safety culture daily and accepting anything less.
What are some of the safety measures you take while on the job?
I never turn a blind eye to any safety concern. I act on safety matters immediately and treat every concern with extreme importance.