Shawn Precious and Roger Precious are brothers that grew up with a very keen interest in aviation, and they both ended up with careers that intertwined and continue to compliment each other. Shawn and Roger are both licenced by Transport Canada to fly commercially as a flight instructor and both are employed by NAV CANADA as Air Traffic Controllers, Shawn presently working at the Vancouver Harbour Tower and Roger at the Abbotsford Airport Tower.
Their interest in aviation began in part due to their father who would build wooden model airplanes for them to play with when they were kids. On their summer holidays they often visited their Grandparents who had a cabin on a lake near Parry Sound, Ontario. To get to the cabin they would fly-in to the lake in a de Havilland Beaver aircraft or a Cessna 185, and that really sold them on aviation. Also, both of their Grandfathers has a connection with aviation from being in the Royal Canadian Air Force in World War II.
After high school Shawn had a flight in a small aircraft with a family friend who was a pilot with Air Canada. Shawn was really interested on making a career in aviation so at 19 he started his flight training at a local flying school at Boundary Bay Airport in Delta, British Columbia, going all the way up to become a flight instructor. Shawn worked at Boundary Bay Airport at a couple of the flying schools for several years. Being at different flying schools provided a broad variety of operational experiences for Shawn.
Roger chose a different route and attended flying school at Abbotsford Airport at Coastal Pacific Aviation from 1990 to 1992, with most of his flight training on the Cessna 172. That course was more of a formal aviation training program typically leading to a career as an airline pilot. Roger obtained his Commercial Pilot Licence, Multi-engine Rating, and Instrument Rating.
After completing the Aviation program Roger obtained his Flight Instructor Rating and worked at the local flying schools at Boundary Bay Airport. For a short period of time Roger and Shawn worked at the same flying school. That’s pretty cool!
Roger began to developed an interest in working for NAV CANADA as an Air Traffic Controller. This interest led to interviews, job offer and training at the ATC school in Cornwall, Ontario. Following successful completion of his training Roger returned to the west coast and began working at various NAV CANADA facilities in British Columbia.
Roger’s aviation career shifted from flying to controlling a couple of times. He started as a Flight Instructor, then ATC, back to being a Flight Instructor, then for a short while as a pilot on Commercial operations flying a Piper Navajo, then back to ATC. With NAV CANADA he has worked at Penticton, Victoria, Vancouver International, Boundary Bay, Langley, Vancouver Centre and now is at Abbotsford Tower. That’s quite an interesting variety of work locations.
Shawn enjoyed the flight instructing for quite a while, then in 1993 he became interested in NAV CANADA and Air Traffic Control. Following a similar process to Roger, Shawn went eastbound to the ATC school in Cornwall to begin training for his new career. It just so happened that Roger was also on course a few months ahead of Shawn, and their courses overlapped for about one month at Cornwall. An interesting coincidence.
After successfully completing the ATC training Shawn returned to British Columbia and worked at the Vancouver Area Control Centre. Later he became a tower controller at the Vancouver Harbour Tower, the Vancouver International Tower then back to the Vancouver Harbour Tower.
The job of an air traffic controller is to establish a safe and orderly flow of aircraft. Usually everything works out quite smoothly, however, occasionally there can be considerable excitement on the job.
Shawn had a significant experience while working at the Vancouver Area Control Centre when a relatively new pilot in a Cessna 150 got into trouble. He was flying at night and inadvertently entered cloud, then became lost somewhere over Langley, BC at 8,500 feet. Shawn and one other controller on duty were also licenced pilots, so Shawn was assigned to talk to the pilot, while the other controller looked after ancillary duties and worked liaison between the Centre operations and Shawn. Shawn was able to use his background flying knowledge and skills, combined with his controller knowledge and skills, to help keep the pilot calm and guide him to safety. After two hours and 9 minutes of tense filled radio communications the Cessna landed uneventfully at Victoria, BC. Shawn and the other controller later received an award from their employer, NAV CANADA, and also an award from the air traffic controllers’ union, their colleagues.
Shawn and Roger have both enjoyed a couple of rewarding careers in aviation, one on the ground and the other in the air. They have also experienced a couple of downturns in the industry with the events following 911, and more recently the COVID-19 pandemic. They believe that once the pandemic is over, aviation will rebound, young people will renew their interest in flight training, and people will once again travel on business or to visit friends and relatives.
Shawn, what advice do you have for young people considering aviation as a career?
Shawn shares his experiences and expectations freely and would like to mention to young people that there is a significant difference between dreams versus reality. Initially he had visions of a career as an airline pilot then later changed that to become an Air Traffic Controller. Working at the Area Control Centre as an IFR controller seemed good at first but now he enjoys the work and lifestyle of working the VFR traffic at the Vancouver Harbour Tower.
Shawn suggests learning about the many varied aspects of aviation and the career opportunities they may present. Having a broad knowledge of aviation will help in making a long-term career decision. There are many opportunities for a career such as pilot, mechanic, flight service specialist, air traffic controller, Boeing, Airbus etc. “Whatever your path may be, be sure to enjoy the journey along the way, as much as you expect to enjoy the destination.”
When asked about the highlight of his career Roger stated that working at the Abbotsford Tower, with its great location, varied workload with large and small aircraft, private and commercial operations, aeroplanes and helicopters, and a great team to work with.
A lesser highlight for Roger was working at the Vancouver International Tower, another great location but with mostly large aircraft with little variation in operational procedures.
Roger also owns an aircraft, a Piper Twin Comanche that is hangared at the Abbotsford Airport. He is a very lucky guy indeed since the hangar is only a few hundred yards away from where he works in the Abbotsford Control Tower! So naturally, Roger and Shawn fly together from time to time. And of course, being flight instructors they likely “coach” each other, and being air traffic controllers, they would likely have a comment or two on the “service” they were provided.
Another side interest for Roger is computer technology and he has developed a video game for Air Traffic Control which naturally blends his love of flying and controlling.
Roger, what advice do you have for young people considering aviation as a career?
Roger would like to encourage young people to consider NAV CANADA and a career as an ATC Tower controller, IFR controller, Flight Service Specialist or one of the many other opportunities.
Roger’s final word of wisdom to young people is that “The key to success is to set a goal and be persistent.”