An international student going to school at Kwalikum Secondary School got a big surprise on Friday, June 22 when a local bus driver delivered him to Ascent Helicopters in Parksville.
That’s because Atabey Gultekin from Turkey has got his future all mapped out: he’s going to be a helicopter mechanic, and plans to return to Canada for training at a post-secondary school.
“It was like one of those spy movies,” said Gultekin of the arrangements Susan Melito had made to get Gultekin a visit at the company.
Melito, a School District 69 (Qualicum) school bus driver and short-term homestay provider, met Gultekin while filling in for Gultekin’s homestay family for a few days. In speaking with him, Melito found out that Gultekin’s single mom had taken out a loan to get him to Canada for Grade 12.
“It was difficult for my mom to get me over here because we’re not a wealthy family,” said Gultekin.
Asking why it was so important to Gultekin, he explained that completing Grade 12 in Canada would make it easier to go to post-secondary school in Canada, so that he can become a helicopter mechanic.
So, after speaking with the school board and Ascent Helicopters, Melito arranged for a visit, telling Gultekin only that, on June 22, he shouldn’t get off the bus at school; he had somewhere else to be.
That morning, Ascent’s director of maintenance, Scott Burford, took Gultekin and Melito on a tour of Ascent’s Parksville facility. He showed off several helicopters in different stages of maintenance, discussed different aspects of helicopter maintenance, how a facility like their’s works, what the work is like and so on.
He also explained that, unlike doing maintenance on planes where work is often done in hangars or overseas, helicopter maintenance often happens in the field, meaning it’s a good job for those interested in exploring and being in remote locations.
“It’s really got me enthusiastic,” said Gultekin of the visit. “I feel like I want to get into them (the helicopters) and start disassembling them, playing with them.”
Asked when his love of helicopters started, Gultekin said he figures it was at six years old.
“There was a guy, I don’t remember his name, he came to where I lived to talk to people there,” he said. “That’s irrelevant. What I saw was the helicopter and the pilot, and he put me in the cockpit.”
“I don’t know, maybe since then or so, I always look up when I see the helicopters passing by. You usually see the military ones in Turkey, and when I see them passing by, I always poke my head out the window. Oh, it’s fascinating.”
Gultekin’s Grade 12 year in Qualicum Beach may have ended in spectacular fashion for him, but there’s still a long way to go for the international student to reach his goal.
He said he’ll find a job when he returns to Turkey to help support his mom and save up for post-secondary school in Canada. Then he’ll probably need another loan to get back to Canada, where he hopes to work and go to school and finally reach his goal.