The roar of a turbine outside is a consistent and frequent sound that seems to energize the workstations inside the engineering department at KF Aerospace. Headquartered in Kelowna, KF provides heavy maintenance and modifications to aviation customers from around the world. The company completes over 1-million maintenance hours every year on more than 300 projects. Alongside its team of skilled technicians, KF also boasts an aerospace engineering team that features several UBC Okanagan engineering alumni and co-op students.
For engineering students at UBC Okanagan, the sound of planes taking off and landing on the other side of highway 97 at the Kelowna International Airport can be inspiring. Connor Badowich completed his BASc (’16) and MASc (’19) in Electrical Engineering at UBC Okanagan. His ambition from the time he was a kid was to become of an astronaut, and that journey led him to KF Aerospace.
“I feel very lucky to have found a role at this type of company, especially here in the Okanagan,” explains Badowich. “Since I came to UBCO, I have fallen in love with the region and everything it offers.”
Upon graduation, Badowich considered employers like Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, and Bombardier, but it was his familiarity with the Okanagan and the opportunities that KF Aerospace provided that drew him to his current role. He attended a career fair, were he had the opportunity to network with some of KF’s engineers. “After connecting with those engineers, I pursued a role persistently and jumped at the opportunity (to work here) when it was presented.”
As a Project Engineer in the Avionics department, Badowich works with customers on a project-to-project basis. Often aircraft arrive at KF Aerospace for maintenance, and the Project Engineering team looks after upgrades requested by customers that can be done concurrently with the maintenance. “We define the scope and requirements of the customer’s request, and then design a solution that meets those requirements.” Often the avionics team designs, installs and tests new equipment within the existing aircraft architecture.
According to Badowich, their location at the airport provides the perfect environment to undertake this work. “There is a lot of troubleshooting involved in connecting new systems within older aircraft, so we regularly head into the hangar and make adjustments or work through problems with technicians inside the aircraft.”
He also points to the importance of engineering fundamentals to the work he does today. “Anytime modifications are made to an aircraft, electrical load analysis and antenna pattern/frequency assessments are required to ensure these changes meet Transportation Canada’s requirements and receive appropriate approval.”
For as long as he can remember, Pradeep Pugalendhi has been fascinated by aviation. “What’s there not to like about a 100,000 lbs machine flying through the air?” Pugalendhi grew up in Lethbridge, AB and still remembers the first time he saw a CF-18 Hornet at the Lethbridge International Air Show. He’s been hooked on aviation ever since.
Pugalendhi graduated from UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering in Mechanical Engineering in June 2021. Prior to that, he completed an Engineering Technology diploma from NAIT, and transferred to UBC through the Camosun College bridge program. During his fourth year, one of his professors, Dr. Sina Kheirkhah, suggested he apply for an internship at KF. That internship has led to a full-time role as a Project Engineer.
Pugalendhi works in the structures side of KF’s project engineering, where the engineering fundamentals and project management skills he developed at UBC Okanagan are put into action. “My time at UBC really helped me gain the skills to problem solve, and my mechanical knowledge has been a crucial foundation for what I do today.”
With an eye on moving into management, Pugalendhi is continuing to develop the skills necessary to pursue that path.
KF Aerospace also offers co-op opportunities for engineering students. Just a few cubicles down from the desks of Badowich and Pugalendhi is Gary Todd who is a fourth-year electrical engineering co-op student in the Avionics department at KF.
Both KF Aerospace and UBC Okanagan are engines for the Okanagan economy, and continue to develop opportunities for collaboration. From co-op programs to research and employment, the future for both continues on an upward trajectory.
For Badowich, KF Aerospace is a terrific place to call home. “KF is an incredibly supportive company that provides so many opportunities for its employees, and is behind you to ensure those opportunities take flight.”