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Malcolm Reavell: From Helicopter Engineer to IT Guy – 35 years in Bristow

February 19, 2020

Malcolm Reavell started his career with Bristow in Aberdeen on January 3, 1985, after serving in the British Army, then continuing to hone his engineering skills at a training company. His first role at Bristow was licensed engineer at the height of the oil boom in the North Sea. 

The first downturn Malcolm experienced came two years later, along with challenging times and workforce reductions.

"I've seen several downturns during my time with Bristow," said Reavell. "They come roughly every five years. I've also seen multiple buyouts and mergers through the years. Somehow I survived all of them.

"I've never been career minded," said Reavell. "I always treated Bristow as a job that allowed me to enjoy a decent standard of living. In the time I spent in the engineering department. I also started and ran a charity for over 12 years to promote Scottish traditional music and culture. I helped promote events and festivals, which I still enjoy doing. I learned desktop publishing and set myself up as a graphic designer, accepting commissions from Aberdeen University among others to design and typeset publications and books, magazines, CDs and more."

 In 2004, Malcolm responded to a notice asking for volunteers from the engineering department to form a team under Colin Jones to implement the IFS system to replace AMIS for aircraft maintenance. It was to be a 12-month project, after which everyone would resume their engineering duties. 

"I needed a change, I'd become somewhat computer savvy, so I applied and was accepted, along with Pete Fry, Kelvin Fletcher and Bill Forsyth," said Reavell. "Others came and went, but I'm the only one who never went back to engineering."

In 2006, Malcolm was invited to lead the IFS upgrade project maintenance workstream. The project encountered multiple difficulties and eventually it was decided to stop and rethink a replacement system. INTOPS had become obsolete at the same time and a project was started to investigate solutions for it alongside IFS. During this time, Malcolm observed that Bristow had a lot to learn as a company about business processes. Bristow's head of IT at the time was Dave McKay, and he sponsored Malcolm to learn business process mapping, and with his support Malcolm also earned a project management qualification.

 Malcolm process mapped the UK Aberdeen and Norwich operations, then went on to do the same for the Gulf of Mexico. 

"These experiences helped me learn a lot," he said. "I gained valuable in-depth knowledge about Bristow operations. The information that came out of that exercise earned me a reputation for decorating offices with brown paper and post-it notes, but which later proved invaluable to the eFlight project."

The different projects Malcolm supported didn't always develop into an implementation, but along the way he learned how the company worked, how projects involving IT succeed or fail, different cultures and processes in different business units, operational, finance, and regulatory matters.

 The IT organization underwent a number of changes over the years, culminating with the arrival of Steve Sidney in the company as chief information officer. 

"One fateful day, Simon Tye and Chris Bond appeared at my desk with an invitation to become part of the UK SAR contract bid team," said Reavell. "At the same time, Candace Gaspard wanted to retain my services for the eFlight project team, and Danie Lordan was trying to persuade me to join the SAP MRO team. It was nice to be in demand, but I really wanted the UK SAR job. That was a paradigm shift. I thought I knew how Bristow worked, but SAR is a world apart from oil and gas. The learning curve was steep, but it was – and remains – a huge privilege to be part of an organization delivering a national blue light service. It soon developed into a global role as other SAR operations adopted the iSAR operations system that UK SAR introduced.

 "I don't know when I realized I had moved from engineer to 'IT guy,'" said Reavell. "A 12-month project in 2004 became a 16-year career move. So, thinking it was about time I learned a bit about IT, so I enrolled in a course at Robert Gordon University in 2014 and gained a post graduate certificate in IT management.

 "I have to thank Colin Jones and Dave McKay for having faith in my abilities, to Steve Sidney for his first-class leadership in the IT organization, and Noel Malcaba for his help and support," said Reavell. "Also, to the Bristow SAR family, especially Simon Tye, Clark Broad, Sam Willenbacher, Russ Torbet, and all the people and crews in UK SAR, Australia, Galliano, Guyana, Norway, and Trinidad who it's been a pleasure to work with these last few years."

Malcolm Reavell has worked for Bristow for more than 35 years as an engineer and later in Information Technology. He took this picture of the aircrew on St. Kilda, Scotland, in 1990 with a Bell 214 helicopter.