After 21 years as airport services manager to 18-hour shift lorry driver

When the QHSE Manager Mikko Asikainen was furloughed from his job in Finland, he didn’t think that it would be a turning point in his career. After 21 years spent gaining various professional experience in the aviation field, the pandemic encouraged Mikko to take on new activities he had never done before.

Since early April 2020, when the pandemic hit the aviation industry globally, Mikko was 80% furloughed, meaning that the other 20% of the time he had to spend working from the home office. When furlough started, the aviation professional decided to start driving a lorry – to take on the job he had done on summer vacations when he was 18-20 years old.

“I had good memories of that. Nowadays you need to have a minimum of 5-days theoretical training, besides a C-class driver’s license, so I had to do those e-Learnings first. Later I did also extra training, for building site safety and road work safety, so it was easy to get hired,” Mikko started his Covid story.

As soon as all the necessary training was completed, Mikko began a new temporary job at a food home delivery company in Finland. It had to be a perfect solution for him to gain more income while due to the Covid-related restrictions, the demand for food delivery in the country had significantly increased but a lorry driver career in the company ended sooner than Mikko expected.

“I was delivering groceries for 2 long days with Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, before [the company] lost the deal… Food that I delivered was 100 % organic and customers were really nice and mainly very rich. The delivery system, navigation, and rostering worked all with 2 Apps. It was a paper-free system and I was impressed with that,” Mikko said.

Having ID and a driving permit to the local airport, soon after he lost his temporary job, Mikko was hired by another company to drive an asphalt to the airport area where a big apron renovation was going on. The new job was physically tough as the normal workday had lasted for 12 or even 18 hours, Mikko admitted.

However, he was familiar with the airport area and this helped him to win a higher position at the company compared to other more experienced drivers at the new company.

“I was driving a big 4-axel lorry, with 11-litre Cummins engine and 12-speed manual ZF gearbox, max weight 37.5 tons. My learning curve was steep [while] other drivers were professionals. Other drivers have had semitrailers and only I had lorry. Because I knew the place, I became the “special OPS guy”, Mikko shared his experience.

The aviation professional had spent a lot of time escorting the asphalt company staff while delivering pipes, machinery, gravel, or containers with his lorry. Meanwhile, his semitrailers were just doing the same job every day. However, the long work hours “suited” Mikko well and soon he started to drive an even bigger lorry, which seemed to be a “dream car” for a temporary worker.

“I was always asked to come first in the morning and left last in the evening.[…] A lot of work all the time, no brakes, and that suited me well. Time goes faster when you have work to do. When the airport site had brakes, we were asphalting storage yards, cycle paths, roads, [and] racetrack. I was driving an even bigger lorry, 5-axel, 16-liter V8 engine, 550 hp, and automatic transmission and max weight 44.5 tons. That was kind of temporary worker dream car,” Mikko smiled.

During the renovation process, the furloughed QHSE Manager even had an opportunity to try out an old fire truck that has been used for washing roads.

While the temporary work has been an adventure, alongside driving a lorry, the aviation professional also decided to launch the Asikami Venture, his own company which provides all the needed repairing services including bicycle and furniture repair as well as cutting off branches, cleaning roof gutters from leaves, delivering metal to recycling, selling the Covid masks or even changing car tires.

“My professional driving and safety training are valid for 5-Years, so if there is a need and I have time, I can go to work as a lorry driver wherever. During these last 9 months, I have acquainted with so many people, companies, good hard-working people, and experienced and learned so much. Now we have a lot of snow in Finland and I was asked to start as a front-end loader, to clean snow from big parking sites,” Mikko said.

“That is something I have not done before, […] but I really hope to get back to my airport work, which has lasted for 21 years.”

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