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YBL enlightens apprentices on airport electrical systems

June 7, 2019 | By Peter Saunders

Photo courtesy Murray Ames

June 7, 2019 – Fourth-level electrical apprenticeship students from British Columbia’s North Island College (NIC) got an up-close look at airport lighting systems last month during special training sessions at Campbell River Airport (YBL).

An introductory presentation in the maintenance shop set the scene for the rest of the tour, with an emphasis on safety precautions, including qualifications and training required to work on specialized equipment. The presentation also discussed new national standards for airfield lighting inspection and maintenance.

“Aviation lighting systems are completely different from conventional electrical systems and require additional safety measures, specialized tools and training, even for certified electricians,” Canadian Airports Electrical Association (CAEA) president Murray Ames explained. “Canada is the only country that stipulates very specific qualifications for working on high-voltage series circuit equipment, with national standards. CSA also has specific training recommendations and standards for airport lighting systems inspection and maintenance.”

The information session covered the range of fixtures installed at YBL’s airfield lighting training centre and the evolution of design in this field, from oil lamps to electrical units that didn’t weather well to contemporary sealed lamps with halogen lamps and LED bulbs that use less energy.


“The focus on maintenance requirements and reduced electricity use adds up, since there are about 450 fixtures at an airport our size,” said Ames. “Larger airports can have more than 10,000.”

The tour served as a preview for the students–who are based at NIC’s Campbell River campus–of some of the information and equipment that would be covered in a five-day airfield lighting maintenance course the following week.

“The exposure our students received was invaluable,” says David Johns, NIC electrical apprenticeship and foundations instructor. “Having an opportunity to view an installation as varied and diverse as an airport, with an individual as passionate and informed as Murray, really helped to open their eyes to some other areas of the electrical trade, along with the unique hazards.”

“We believe this is a first for Canada, where electrical apprentices were exposed to unique and specialized airport lighting equipment,” says Ames. “The plan is to continue this with future classes from the college.”

The subsequent five-day course drew 20 attendees to YBL, which features the only fully operational, hands-on training facility in the country. It was the third national training session hosted in Campbell River and was led by three instructors, including Ames.

Further training is available from CAEA through the annual Canadian Airports National Electrical Workshop (CANEW). The next edition will be hosted in Quebec City this September.

“CANEW offers training that was previously available through Transport Canada,” Ames explains. “It is the only training workshop of its kind in North America that provides an exchange of airport electrical knowledge, experience and skills. Attendees receive certificates indicating new or refresher training.”

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