Happy International Women in Engineering Day!
Happy International Women in Engineering Day! #INWED is celebrating its tenth year in 2023 and this year’s theme is #MakeSafetySeen. The latest figures, taken in 2021, show that in the UK only 16.5% of engineers are women. At the BWPA, we have many members who are engineers within the aviation industry. We spoke with two of them about their jobs.
I’m a manufacturing engineer at a global aerospace company that builds jet engines, power systems and avionics for military and commercial aircraft. In this role there is a real mix of being hands on, for example fixing or re-designing tooling, analysing data to identify trends and carrying out investigations into the root cause and corrective action of issues. Manufacturing engineers are always in the middle of the shop floor action, collaborating with other teams, which makes the work varied, fast paced and interesting. My favourite aspect of the job is that there is always a problem to be solved and a better way of doing something.
My engineering career unintentionally began when I started studying a BSc in Aviation Technology with Pilot Studies at the University of Leeds. I planned to become an airline pilot and completed my private pilot licence (PPL) during the summer after my first year. However, as I went through university, I kept wanting to know more about how aircraft work, the systems powering them, and how they were designed and manufactured. Therefore, I studied an MSc in Aerospace Technologies, specialising in manufacturing, at the University of Nottingham. Alongside this, I completed my multi engine/instrument rating and commercial pilot licence with the new intention of becoming a flight instructor, because I wanted to share the passion and skill of flying with others, as some highly influential people had shared with me along the way.
After graduating, I decided to try pursuing both engineering and flying as career paths as I didn’t want to give up either. I got a job as a process improvement engineer at a highly innovative engineering company where I supported the manufacturing line by resolving production issues and implementing improvements. I owe a lot to the company who first employed me straight out of university, as they helped me to develop essential engineering skills, such as problem solving, decision making and negotiation. This enabled me to recently get a new job in the aerospace industry, which I’m so passionate about, with a company at the forefront of its development.
A year ago, I obtained my Flight Instructor rating and have since worked four days a week as an engineer and three days a week as an instructor. I never planned to follow two career paths but, here I am, thoroughly enjoying both engineering and flying and the future opportunities both will bring!
I joined BAE Systems in September 2019, straight after my A-levels, beginning the five-year Engineering Degree Apprenticeship Scheme (EDAS). The scheme allows you to complete a bachelor’s degree whilst gaining real-world engineering experience working on placements around the company. I was initially attracted to BAE by the vast number of famous aircraft that they and their predecessor companies had produced, from the Tiger Moth and Lancaster all the way through to the Eurofighter Typhoon. Tempest (the next-generation aircraft expected to fly from 2035) had recently been announced, providing lots of exciting lots of ‘once in a generation’ opportunities to work on a new aircraft.
As an apprentice, I have been fortunate enough to complete five-month placements in several teams, such as Sceptre Mission Planning, Typhoon Weapon Systems Capability, and F-35 Airframe. My interest in Human Factors (HF) led me to join the HF team for my final two-year specialism placement, which really allowed me to apply my flying experience to my work. Having completed my PPL last summer, I’ve found it really useful being able to understand how workload and situational awareness can have an impact on the pilot during various stages of flight. I’m currently involved in the cockpit design of the Future Combat Air System (FCAS), which is certainly a world away from my Cessna 152! However, the requirement to carefully consider the human in the design of the system (known as human-machine interfacing) still remains. The best part of my job is getting to speak to fast-jet aircrew about how the next-generation aircraft can be improved, whilst working with our Japanese and Italian partners to see these improvements start to be implemented. It really is an exciting time to be in the industry!