I wanted to apply my BEng Aerospace Engineering to the ‘real’ world – a physical job rather than just academic studies, and British Airways sounded like a great challenge with good fun and potential to do some travelling. It would be great experience working for a well-known reputable airline.
The first few days? Um… hectic! And busy, confusing, eye-opening. I started in the maintenance hangars in Glasgow, and the first thing that struck me was the buzz and amount of activity to support the two aircraft in the hangar – I got submerged in structural repairs, technical meetings, repair and modification design, interfacing with Heathrow, Airbus and Boeing, all on the back of a week’s training – it was intense but really exciting to think I had been allowed to make a contribution to the airworthiness of aircraft so quickly (with supervision obviously!). Straightaway I felt valued and welcomed and have loved every minute since.
The scheme itself is very technical. We were in at the deep end with projects and fleet maintenance and had to start making technical decisions right from the start.
We had the unique ability to get out and about – down into the hangars, working at the terminal, picking up the tools in the workshops and getting stuck in – it is a very flexible and hands-on scheme that offers a large variety of placements throughout the whole of engineering.
As a Technical Engineer, In Flight Technology, my typical week involves a bit of design work – from writing service bulletins to modify our current fleets, designing and producing electrical installation drawings and schematics, integrating with other departments and engineering bases to understand the implications of modifications, and sticking my head into aircraft electronic compartments to establish physical installation constraints. I also design and manage the retrofitting of old IFE systems to our aircraft, involving Boeing and Airbus, IFE vendors, my seat design counterparts, our certification and airworthiness organisations, finance (to present the retrofits and gain approval), material controllers (to agree delivery and purchase schedules), planning to agree embodiment schedules, my counterparts at Waterside (HQ) who specify and design the aesthetics where possible, and our customer experience team to understand the needs of the customer and how we can make a difference!
It’s a very busy and full-on process that allows me to drive the programmes and manage others, as well as meet with a variety of departments throughout the business. I also do a fair amount of travelling, visiting seat vendors, IFE vendors, aircraft manufacturers and interior vendors in places as far as LA and as near as Germany.
On top of this, I can build on the day job, and get involved with other departments and initiatives where I can make a change to people not in my team, promoting cost-saving and driving efficiency to help Engineering and British Airways meet our performance and safety targets, resulting in rewards for our staff and, indeed, me.
I also attend meetings for projects that I am running, I am involved with, or I just want to find out about. This is great for getting to know others in the business and find out what they can offer my work and what I can offer theirs. It builds a great team spirit and is a good way for me to voice my opinions and influence the design of new products and solutions being installed on our aircraft every month.
Now and again I manage to get over to Waterside to meet with people involved in projects. This is great as it not only allows me to hold face-to-face meetings, but it also allows me to get more familiar with our headquarters, and soak up some of the work ethics and feel part of the British Airways engine, rather than just the Engineering engine!
The scheme provides the chance to work on all parts of engineering – from designing repairs, to fault-finding avionic malfunctions, to getting engine oil up my arms whilst changing gear boxes on 777 engines. It offers such a wide knowledge base and experience and it is great to be able to do what I want within the programme and absorb as much of that information as possible. Getting to collect a brand new aircraft from Boeing or Airbus is also a great perk!
Around here you need a can-do attitude, and to create that image yourself – get in on as many projects and opportunities as possible, and never sit back and wait to be asked. Enthusiasm can never be underestimated: it’s what separates the average from the brilliant.
It’s difficult to single out a highlight. I’ve enjoyed passing my knowledge on to new graduate joiners, for certain. But I can’t decide between getting to jet around the world visiting suppliers, being involved with open days and charity events, giving colleagues from all over the airline tours of engineering, successfully getting customers on their way towards holidays during strikes, snow, volcanic ash clouds or doing my day job and seeing aircraft with new safety or service enhancements and getting great feedback.
Getting to visit Boeing and Airbus was awesome. Seeing the factories where aircraft are born, and sensing the sheer complexity and precision of it all is always an awesome sight. I was like a child in a sweet shop seeing all the aircraft in various stages of build, but I am an engineer after all!