Michael Kirk has just started pre-season training at Ballyclare Rugby Club. As a centre, he knows a thing or two about navigating his way around the pitch, a skill he employed to good effect as he explored every nook and cranny during his year with Belfast International Airport.
The 21-year old is studying Mechanical Engineering at Ulster University and is coming to the end of his year-long placement with the airport where he was part of the Building and Civil Engineering team headed by Joe McGuigan.
This was Michael’s Year Three of a four-year degree course which, in his words, was “nothing like what I expected, and better than I thought possible.”
The airport takes a lot of getting used to, and Michael now feels he could give guided tours of the complex. Why? Well, because one of his first jobs as a Project Engineer was to carry out an extensive survey of all the doors in the Terminal to check if they were fire-complaint or damaged and in need of replacement.
Michael says: “I thought there would be about five hundred doors but in the end, the total was 1,200. Forget about counting sheep to try to get to sleep. I went to bed some nights counting doors!
“I also assisted on safeguarding the airport zone. This covers a 30km radius and it covers structures of a certain height that could impact on our radar. So, I helped Joe out, especially when he was away on his month-long cruise – lucky man.
“The emergency lights project was another piece of work, but don’t ask me how many there were.”
So how would Michael sum up his year at the airport?
“I found it very enjoyable. I don’t like doing the same thing over and over again, and that’s the thing about the airport where no two days are the same. It has been nice to explore the place and get to know everyone. All the engineers have been very helpful and I will miss it.”
Michael’s year has given him a greater insight into what its really like to be an engineer, and it has given him the confirmation that it is, indeed, the career he wants.
“The other great benefit is learning teamwork, and that will help in my final year project where I will have to do a lot of group work.
“It’ll be tough going back to university in September. I’ll miss all the guys here, but I won’t miss all the 7am starts,” he joked.
For his part, Joe McGuigan, Projects and Safeguarding Surpervisor, thought Michael brought a lot to the team and he wished him well for the future.
Joe added: “Michael was diligent and hard-working. He fitted in really well with the rest of us and was keen to learn. He’s a great lad and if he plays rugby as well as he performed here during the year, then he’ll probably get a call up for the Ulster XV shortly.”