How de-icing experience can make you a better pilot

Aeromag’s Changemakers October 25, 2023
The Portraits of Changemakers series focuses on visionary individuals who work at Aeromag and who, every day, demonstrate a willingness to make a difference in the world. This time, we spoke with deicing veteran Mathieu Talbot, who started his career at Aeromag before taking off as a commercial pilot.

A true aviation buff, Mathieu joined Aeromag at the age of 19. Eighteen years later, he still travels to the Aeromag station at Montreal-Trudeau Airport to help out the team a few times during winter. And he does it all for the sheer joy of getting back into a deicing truck.

Learning the skills at Aeromag

In 2004, Mathieu was studying aircraft maintenance at the École nationale d’aérotechnique when he saw the job offer that changed his life. “The job description for a Deicing Technician caught my eye and I have never looked back,” said Mathieu, who was looking for a part-time job while studying. Working at Aeromag, surrounded by airplanes, was a dream come true!

Once he got the job, Mathieu took Aeromag’s training, gaining deicing experience on the Montreal tarmac during the winter months. “I worked about 20 to 30 hours a week on evenings and weekends. During the holiday season, I offered to work even more hours,” he said.

Three months later, the company asked him to become a Bay Lead, a position that usually takes a year to meet the qualifications. He accepted the position before leaving for Côte-Nord to work as a helicopter mechanic during the summer. In the fall, Aeromag asked Mathieu to come back for the deicing season, so he went home for the winter and resumed his position as Team Leader.

“That winter wasn’t easy, but I liked the adrenaline rush,” Mathieu recalled.

After working a year as a Bay Lead, Aeromag gave Mathieu the chance to train to become a Supervisor and Coordinator Traffic & Movements, known as CTM. “That was another eye-opening opportunity,” Mathieu added. “It was so exciting to talk to the pilots from the control tower.”

Soaring to his potential

Because of his training in aircraft maintenance and his experience as a helicopter mechanic, Mathieu was the ideal candidate to assist the Chief Mechanic at the YUL station. “He trained me and I helped him all summer. In the fall, Mathieu continued to work as a mechanic before returning to his supervisor position. The following year, Aeromag offered him the position of Director of Operations.

Mathieu has fond memories of this opportunity and says his time at Aeromag was very formative for him. “Aeromag trained me to be better at everything I did and they taught me how to manage people,” he said. “Aeromag gave me all the tools I needed to do the job.”

Throughout his career, Mathieu has always conducted training sessions and shared his knowledge. “I helped open new stations, like in Cleveland, Ohio, where I went to give training. Two years after he started, he was already helping to train new employees, either as a Supervisor or as a Bay Lead.

Flying on his own

It was no secret to anyone at Aeromag: Mathieu’s dream was always to become a pilot. “Mario Lépine [President of Aeromag] always encouraged me. He even called me ‘the Captain'”, Mathieu recalled. “He always believed in me and anything I wanted to do.”

Mathieu completed his flight training courses while working at Aeromag and eventually found a job as a corporate pilot. A few years later, he was named Captain and he is still in that seat today. “My career at Aeromag was an asset as a pilot. Pilots don’t really know about de-icing.”

Pilots often fly to major airports where deicing experts, such as Aeromag, take care of everything. Mathieu’s extensive knowledge of the deicing process is a bonus when he lands at smaller airports or when he travels to more remote areas.

“In Northern Quebec, you’re on your own. You’re the pilot and the maintenance person. My knowledge has helped me to be self-reliant in some situations.”

Mathieu’s expertise also led him to lead a deicing program where he works. “I applied the best practices I learned at Aeromag so we could have a safer, more efficient operation. Mathieu also shared his expertise with his new colleagues and helped train them in deicing to-dos. “I now know that I’m safe when I fly my planes because the staff is trained in de-icing.”

As chief pilot, Mathieu is back in a position where he must manage both personnel and potential crises. “The tools and training I learned at Aeromag allowed me to take on more responsibility in my new job. They helped me to move up the ladder more quickly where I work now.”

Returning to his roots

“I love the job, I love the people,” Mathieu replied when asked why he continues to help out at Aeromag each winter. “They call me when they need an extra hand and I’m happy to get back into a truck.”

Mathieu takes his work seriously, but he still has a lot of fun when he rejoins the deicing crew at the YUL station. “After 18 years, I know the work so well, it’s not stressful. I do it for fun! When it’s snowing, there are planes everywhere… I totally love it.”

Would Mathieu be flying high if he hadn’t worked at Aeromag? “Maybe, but certainly not with such great tools in my toolbox,” he said.

Even though Mathieu no longer works with Aeromag, he has paved the way for a new generation of changemakers to reinvent our industry. Meet Oscar Garcia, Operations Manager at our Denver (DEN) station.