If you’ve flown with Air Canada before, Claude Blouin probably combed through the aircraft before you boarded. Planes hold no secrets for this maintenance specialist. No time to think about changing careers when you never know what can happen on the tarmac.

At 62, Mr. Blouin is entering his 41st year with Air Canada if we take into account his years of service with Canadian Airlines International, purchased by the Montreal-based carrier at the turn of the 2000s.

Defective valves, electronic glitches, mechanical problems, this sixty-year-old has lost count of the problems he has solved since the start of his career. He knows every corner of an aircraft.

“I look like I’m just looking at the plane, but I’m listening to it and I can feel it,” he told La Presse on the tarmac at Montreal-Trudeau airport. When I arrive in front of an engine, I look inside, but I feel. If it smells like roast chicken, there’s a bird that’s been here. You can’t see it, but you can feel it. There are a lot of things going on that you don’t see. »

Not knowing what awaits him tomorrow and being in the heat of the moment is Mr. Blouin’s daily life. It’s also what he’s always been looking for. Offering a facelift of several weeks to planes sent to a hangar for heavy maintenance is not his cup of tea.

“I’m a team guy,” he adds. I’m not one to work alone in an office. Don’t put me there, it won’t work. »

Mr. Blouin has been at the forefront of transforming the airline industry. Times have changed a lot since the 1980s, when planes “didn’t talk to you,” he explains. Back then, each aircraft model had its own technical manual – a thousands-page “bible” that lists everything there is to know about the aircraft.

Today ? The library is in a shelf where all the copies are at hand. The multiple round trips during a shift to fetch books – which can still be found in the cabins of certain aircraft – are a thing of the past.

“Now the tablet contains programs and you can tell when a valve is starting to work erratically,” says Blouin.

Routine was never part of Mr. Blouin’s career. Although he has been based at Montréal-Trudeau since 2012, his job has led him to move around and even travel. He found himself among the specialists who carry out checks for the planes that carry the Prime Minister of Canada. On more than one occasion, Mr. Blouin kept watch to ensure that the flights of Jean Chrétien, Paul Martin and Stephen Harper went off without a hitch.

He is now assigned to a day shift thanks to his seniority, which has not always been the case for Mr. Blouin. Like many of his colleagues, he worked nights, weekends and holidays.

His longevity with the same employer, Claude Blouin also owes it to his spouse, he takes care to specify.

“It’s something you forget, but I give all the credit to my wife,” he said. She was able to be there with the children when I was gone. I’m lucky I work the day shift. But there are younger people who work at night for years. It’s fascinating work, but it brings all kinds of difficulties. »

After more than 40 years with the same employer, you don’t always remember your first day on the job. For Mr. Blouin, these memories are still engraved in his memory, he says with a laugh. “I had spoken to my father about it. I said, ‘Dad, they hired me and the only business we do is play cards! It makes no sense, we are being paid to do nothing.” Canadian Airlines was running in for heavy maintenance. The company was increasing the workforce, but there were no jobs for us yet. It changed after a while. »