100 Years and Counting with Shaun Odell

When Shaun Odell finished school at age 16, he knew that he did not want to continue learning in a mainstream setting because he did not enjoy school. At the time, his uncle worked for Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group (MADG) and he suggested that Shaun might enjoy doing an apprenticeship there. Since Shaun enjoyed his engineering lessons at school, he decided to apply and was delighted to be offered an interview. He recalled that in those days the interviewers had access to their full school records including attendance, behaviour scores and academic achievements. Thankfully, Shaun had a good report and was invited to join the initial cohort of 35 apprentices in August 1985 and then progressed through to the second stage in February 1986.

Shaun enjoyed the way the trainers taught them with the right mixture of humour and discipline. He recalled a funny moment when one of the trainers, with a thick Scottish accent asked Shaun to go to the workshop and get a “squat can”, Shaun had no idea what he was looking for, so asked the people in the workshop to help him find one. Everyone was perplexed and they sent Shaun back to the trainer empty handed. When Shaun explained that he couldn’t find the “squat can” and no one in the workshop knew what a “squat can” was, the trainer burst out laughing, adjusted his accent and said, “I asked for a squirt can.”

It wasn’t like school, but it wasn’t like work either, it was something in between. Shaun thrived in that environment so much that he received the Apprentice of the Year award at the end of his first year in the training centre, which was a proud moment for him.

Due to Shaun’s outstanding performance, he was placed in one of the hangars to work on the business jets where he had a brilliant time learning from some of the most talented fitters in the industry. MADG only placed one or two apprentices in that part of the business each year, so Shaun felt honoured to be given that opportunity. He said that they often had to repair leaking shimmy dampers, which are cylinders filled with hydraulic fluid that prevent rapid movement of the nose wheel. This involved taking them apart and sealing them up. Many of the experienced fitters found this challenging at times but Shaun could always fix them easily, so he stood out as a rising talent early on. The training he received in the hangar was second to none and this showed because he went on to win Apprentice of the Year every year across his four-year apprenticeship. This is an achievement that Shaun is proud of and it instilled a passion for life-long learning that continues to this day. After Shaun qualified as a fitter, he jumped at any opportunity to learn new skills and gain further qualifications, which MADG supported him with throughout his career. He learned how to tow aircraft, marshal aircraft using paddles and how to fix various components on different types of aircraft.

The first time he marshalled an aircraft in, the trainer him told him to guide the aircraft to stop with the nose between 2 to 3 inches away from Shaun’s chest. As the aircraft edged forward, he could tell that the pilot was growing nervous of the proximity of the aircraft to Shaun, but the trainer encouraged Shaun to take control because in that situation the pilot must follow the marshal’s instructions. Shaun did a perfect job and to his surprise the pilot was the late Sir Arthur George Marshall himself and this was the first time Shaun met him in person. As Sir Arthur climbed out of the cockpit he said, “I wasn’t sure if you wanted me to run you over.”

Shaun became licenced to certify work to ensure it was done correctly and safely. He was then certifying and checking the work of the amazing fitters who trained him.

After 10 years working in the hangars, Shaun was given the opportunity to move into another role in the estimating department, which involved communicating with customers and understanding their requirements. He worked on Bombardiers, TriStars, business jets, Hercules and commercial jets such as the Boeing 747. He became the Head of Planning, Estimating and Commercial for business jets, which he described as great fun.

3 years ago, he moved over to the Marshall Land Systems estimating department where he is currently the Senior Estimating Manager, which is a big change but one that he is enjoying very much. Shaun is grateful that his uncle suggested a Marshall apprenticeship as it was the start of an exciting and varied career.