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Airbus

4.2
  • 1,000 - 50,000 employees

Matthew Davidson

What's your job about?

Airbus Australia Pacific is one of the largest aerospace firms in Australia & New Zealand. The majority of our operations are as a contractor to the ADF in providing through life support (TLS) for military helicopters and fixed wing aircraft.  I am an engineer based at Richmond RAAF base within the C-130J program. Currently I am part of the TLS team. We perform design activities such as design changes and repairs supporting the maintenance or modification of the C-130J aircraft, publication amendments and investigations into recurring structural or maintenance issues across the fleet.

A typical short term project would be a structural repair. The AMEs (aircraft maintenance engineers i.e. aircraft trades people) will contact engineering when they encounter damage (e.g. such as cracks, corrosion, unusual hole configurations) that is not covered by the C-130J SRM (structural repair manual). I will review the technical information such as part numbers, location, description of problem, NDT reports (non-destructive testing). Then I will talk to the AME who raised the request and take a look at the problem on the aircraft. Often the problem relates to an aircraft within the Airbus Hanger which is undergoing scheduled maintenance or modification. Sometimes the problem is on an aircraft on the flight line (i.e. parked on the RAAF base tarmac) in which case we would go talk to the RAAF maintenance person and drive out to the aircraft to take a look. Occasionally the problem is on an aircraft which is overseas on a mission. Our discussion will lead to a preferred solution, or proposed repair. Often the best solution is the one suggested by the AME as it is the most practical. We will talk to all the other teams that may be involved in the solution such as purchasing for spare parts, NDT for the required inspections, other tradesmen or leading hands to determine if the repair is achievable and workable (Can the repair parts be manufactured easily? Do we have the required rivets or bolts? Will the necessary tooling physically fit inside the work area?). Once a plan of attack is finalised then I will prepare an engineering instruction that communicates the repair solution to the AMEs. I will also prepare an engineering report that certifies that the repair satisfies all the relevant airworthiness requirements. This can involve structural strength and fatigue calculations, review of original drawings, manuals, specifications, loads, original stress reports and any other information required to show that the repair is safe and will remain safe for the life of the aircraft.

What's your background?

I attended North Sydney Boys High School. During year 11 and 12 I chose Engineering Studies as an elective. This was a great subject that first gave me the taste for engineering and an excellent head start for first year university. The university course was four years which included an individual research thesis and a group design project. Finding a work experience position is also a requirement of the course. I was lucky enough to be accepted for a work experience position at Airbus Australia Pacific during the summer of 2010 – 2011. I completed University in June 2011 and was successful for a graduate position with Airbus in July 2011.

I have been with AAP for six years. I started on the P-3 Orion program and transferred to the C-130J program 12 months ago. My job description remains the same, however, I have a higher level of engineering authority and responsibility than I did as a graduate. This allows me to review and sign off on the work of my fellow engineers. The most important factor that led me to a graduate position was being successful for the work experience position while still studying. Work experience is the best way to get a foot in the door and demonstrate your ability to a potential employer. Searching for and applying for work experience should be treated like a graduate position as it is extremely beneficial to get that experience before applying for a graduate position. If a graduate position becomes available later and if your employer is pleased with your performance, chances are you will get the job.

Could someone with a different background do your job?

Yes, although as most of AAPs contracts are with defence it is important to have Australian or New Zealand citizenship and you will be subject to police checks and security clearance checks.

For a structures role, a degree in mechanical engineering may be acceptable as well as Aeronautics or Aerospace.

Characteristics or other skills one should have when it comes to my job are problem solving skills, interpersonal and communication skills, analytical skills (engineering mechanics, statics and stress). Excel is very useful, Word to a lesser extent. CAD (Autocad, Catia) and FEA are a plus. Most importantly, a desire to never stop learning and the humility to accept constructive criticism and advice from those around you (colleagues, AMEs, everyone you deal with).

What's the coolest thing about your job?

I enjoy the analytical and problem solving aspects of the job. Drawing up the designs, running the models and crunching the numbers. The most rewarding aspect is when you work with other people to arrive at the best solution, leveraging off the expertise of everyone involved and not just your own. When this is done well you build good relationships and respect and you know that your contribution is appreciated.

As an engineer within Airbus AP, you will also have the opportunity to transfer internally to all parts of Airbus Worldwide.

Another great aspect working at Airbus Australia Pacific is the opportunity to manage your own projects and to develop all parts of it. This may seem cliché but it is not. Traditionally in the big aerospace companies in the USA and Europe, engineers are organised in silos that perform one function. Simplistically, one engineer determines the loads, another designs the part, the next checks the static strength and another checks the fatigue life. In Australia our teams are too small for this approach to work, so each engineer has to do it all. As a graduate in Airbus AP this will give you a multiskilled background that is becoming more and more valued overseas where this is not the norm. This is why I was recently successful for a position in Airbus SAS in Toulouse, France.

What are the limitations of your job?

Although working a little bit of overtime each week is normal, sometimes a lot of overtime is necessary to meet a deadline.

Not every job is interesting, some are particularly dry, such as investigations into aircraft cleaning etc.

Being able to travel overseas or at least interstate is a must as jobs only last as long as the contract, project or fleet does and you must be able to go where the work is, or be prepared to branch outside of the aerospace industry.

3 pieces of advice for yourself when you were a student...

  • Think seriously about whether you are passionate about aerospace or whether you are in it for the money. If it’s the latter then aerospace is not for you. Ultimately the people who work as aeronautical engineers do it for the passion.
  • If you are passionate and you do want to be in aviation, then make sure you are one of the better students, get involved in practical projects if you can, and make sure you take work experience seriously and get the best position you can. At the end of the day, there are far too many graduates for the jobs available, so you must increase your marketability if you want to win that graduate position.
  • Try to enjoy your time at Uni – it is a short part of your life but can be very rewarding personally as well as professionally. Many of us do our best just to survive the course work, projects and exams. There may not seem to be any room to enjoy uni life at the time. The key is balance and discipline.