Member Norm Paterson honoured with COPA Award of Merit

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From Burt Hodgins, COPA 45, Goderich …

A pilot’s best friend is his AME to ensure a well maintained and operating aircraft that gives the pilot peace of mind while flying. Knowing the machine is in good running condition the pilot is free to concentrate on the airspace, weather and other safety requirements while flying cross country.

COPA Flight 177 member and AME, Norm Paterson, is a valued individual among his aviation friends and colleagues. He operates a mobile truck from the town of Fullerton, southeast of Mitchell as well as a maintenance shop across the side road from his home, a converted 120 year old schoolhouse. He has a grass strip on the farm from which allows customers to fly in for service. Norm also flies his Piper Pacer from his home strip to the customer’s airport, picks up their aircraft and flies it back to his shop for the maintenance required.

Norm apprenticed for his AME at Terry Air, a maintenance facility owned by the late Terry Stuart at the Centralia Airport. After receiving his license, Norm established his own business. As an AME, Norm is basically on call 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. Faced with an unexpected mechanical problem en route, pilots say when phoned Norm will give them some suggestions to try adjusting certain parts to get both pilot and plane back to the home base. Myself, when I have had limited time between trips or air tours, he always manages to fit me in for needed maintenance or even an annual. Norm is responsible for maintenance on over 70 aircraft. Some annual inspections take longer to complete in one year than another but that is the life of an AME, who always wants to ensure the maximum safety for his pilots and their planes. That is Norm Paterson!

The first Sunday in January, Norm and Lillian host a buffet luncheon where homemade pies are the best and oh so very delicious. Each guest also brings a dish to add to the menu which allows a feast for all airplane enthusiasts that is second to none. Wow what a way to start the New Year off with friends, customers, colleagues and neighbours when nothing much is happening in the social world.

Lillian Kluka is an one-of-a-kind lady. While Norm had a career of fixing and flying aircraft, she had a career on the waters of the Great Lakes rising through the ranks until she became a Captain of a great lake transport ship. Over a decade, Lillian was Canada’s first female ship captain at a time when shipping companies thought women would be a disruption, if not an outright liability. But she preserved and also courageously changed careers when her dreams changed. She came home to Norm and Fullerton, returned to university graduating with 3 degrees. Today she is a classroom teacher. When the chance arises, she tells her high school students that all dreams are open to them. She is living proof!

Norm doesn’t fix aircraft all the time. He does contribute significantly to his community by, driving seniors, especially older pilots and spouses to area events. Norm is also a very talented musician and enjoys to play his ukulele at legions, service clubs, hangar parties, retirement and nursing homes.

This AME serves as a southwestern director on the Ontario board of Aircraft Maintenance Engineers, which is now transitioning to a national board and Norm will be a director of that newly formed board. Director at large, Wayne Juniper, says “that Norm has served over 10 years as a very active director of this organization. Norm is also one of those rare rural AME’s that is still in operation.” In 2013, Norm was recognized for the Clare Leavens Award, which acknowledges a “member of the AME Association who, in the opinion of the directors and members, has made a particularly outstanding contribution to the continued success of the Association.”

Since its’ inception nine years ago, Norm has been an active member of COPA Flight 177 Sexsmith. He has held various executive positions including Captain. Each year this Flight hosts a spring breakfast held the last Sunday in May in which many pilots in many varying aircraft, antique, home-built, twins and others, fly into the grass strip there for a day of food with friends. The last Sunday of August, COPA 177 holds a corn roast with the most delicious local corn, hot dogs and more. This is another time for friends to gather. Norm is one member that is always there to help the day be successful.