Just when you thought you knew everything about the ISS and the missions supplying the crews with food, water and supplies, Commander Chris Hadfield came along singing about Major Tom and put the ISS back into the centre of the public eye.
How did Astrium, the EADS division responsible for bringing Mr. Hadfield’s guitar – and more than 6.4 tons of material – to the ISS, manage to do so? What factors facilitate missions like this? Read about the exciting steps making interstellar music possible…


During the construction of an aircraft various stress parameters have to be monitored, tested and calculated. Not only by life-testing, but there’s a lot of virtual reality involved in the process too…

Astrium to Major Tom
Missions into space these days have become almost routine. We have become used to seeing spacecraft go up into orbit to conduct a plethora of scientific experiments aboard the ISS. In stark contrast, however, were the TV images of a soaked washcloth being wrung out in microgravity which went around the world followed by the guitar playing crew member Commander Chris Hadfield becoming a YouTube star. The message appeared to be that an ISS mission had become all too mundane and that its success was a mere matter of course.
Astrium to Major Tom


There are, however, some considerable steps involved, before a mission can be declared a success. Rachid Amekrane has already spent over twelve years working on the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) project. After graduating in aerospace engineering at the Universities of Berlin and Stuttgart (Germany), Rachid has acquired in depth skills as a systems engineer since joining Astrium, the EADS space division, in 1997.
Rachid’s main focus is on these ATVs which are Europe’s unmanned expendable resupply spacecraft transporting all manner of materials into orbit, including propellant, water, air, diverse payloads, and experiments required on board the ISS. Another purpose of the ATV is to re-boost the ISS into higher orbit, as contrary to popular belief, at 400 km above the earth the effects of residual atmospheric drag cause the station to lose about 100m in altitude per day.
ATV Albert Einstein is the fourth unmanned space freighter sent to the ISS – following the first ATV called Jules Verne in 2008, Johannes Kepler in 2011 and Edoardo Amaldi in 2012. A fifth ATV Georges Lemaître is planned for 2014. ATV Albert Einstein was launched on June 5th, 2013 and was the heaviest spacecraft ever to be launched into space by an Ariane rocket. The most noticeable advantage this particular ATV has to offer is its huge payload capacity amounting to 7.6 tons. This payload is almost three times as much as any other space resupply freighter. This guarantees that the ISS crew’s needs can be catered for. The Astrium engineers were able to maximise the space for payloads by using the curved shaped room between the racks and the shell of the craft.


The most important advantage, however, ATV Albert Einstein has to offer is the automated docking procedure made possible by the use of GPS and a star tracker to automatically rendezvous with the Space Station. At a distance of 249 m, the ATV computers use laser based videometer and telegoniometer data for final approach and docking manoeuvres. Developing this procedure was a tricky task, according to Rachid, as the standard ‘double failure tolerance’ had to be taken into account. That means a function can fail twice and must still be able to operate safely. More benefits of ASTRIUM’s ATVs include the transport capacity and the long on-dock duration. These are clear USPs for ASTRIUM’s space freighter. Generally speaking the traffic to the ISS has to be reduced as much as possible as each ATV visit causes a disturbance in the micro-g levels on the space station.


With the first mission being successfully carried out in the year 2008, there are plenty of lessons that have been learned by the team. For example none of the ATVs are the same. The ATV-4 was completed and launched from Kourou in June 2013 and ATV-5 is currently under assembly and being tested in Bremen, Germany. Even after the 5th ATV launch one will not be able to speak of a routine job. Each vehicle is unique and has its own "character". Some engineers even think this is the reason why the vehicles have individual names.

One question remains when looking at the extraordinary success that Astrium has been able to achieve with the programme: What made the enormous payload the ATV Einstein is capable of bringing up to the space station possible? And why can’t the other vehicles available in the market achieve the same payload? The answer is as simple as intriguing: Thanks to the ATV's intelligent design there is a huge volume of dry cargo space and an enormous reservoir for propellant available. Furthermore the ARIANE 5 with a launch capability of more than 20t into ISS orbit is of considerable benefit. This capacity is almost being used to the full extent.


At Astrium the engineers are certain, that the competence in systems engineering and the experience in development and operations of human space flight projects are particularly unique and the core of the ATV programme’s success. Individuals like Rachid, who has already spent more than twelve years working on subsequent ATV vehicles, remain fascinated by the programme. And as each vehicle is unique, no day in the life of the engineers is the same with challenges cropping up all the time. Team spirit is the key factor in successfully tackling and managing those challenges in order to deliver a successful space vehicle capable of supplying the International space station as planned. That is a supremely motivating factor for the personnel working on the team.



After studying aerospace engineering, Rachid started in a small subsidiary of Astrium. He changed to Astrium Space Transportation in 1997 to join the advanced projects team dealing with the future use of ATVs. Rachid was able to reap what he and his team sowed. The multi-purpose crew vehicle (MPCV) is currently entering the design phase. ‘Coming to life’, as Rachid puts it.


The most exciting part for anyone working on the ATV programme certainly is the final assembly phase in Kourou. Each day the team can see the vehicle grow and even a seemingly simple task like weighing the craft is as challenging as it is rewarding, requiring high levels of concentration finesse and skills, as the vehicle’s mass is measured with a deviation of less than 1 ‰.


When asked what the most important skills and qualifications are that are needed in order to successfully contribute to the team, the members mention team spirit, management skills and leading edge systems engineering competence. Also a good command of languages is a virtual pre-requisite for the engineers. English is mandatory and knowledge of French and/or German would help in communicating with the team.


With all the details that make up a huge programme such as the ATV production, there are always things that can go wrong. As a rule incidents are very rare, as Astrium’s quality management system guarantees best results.
But sometimes parts are faulty on delivery or can break during assembly. Thus, even a tiny part like a screw can be a huge problem particularly if it is custom built. One of the biggest issues during the ATV Einstein assembly was a malfunctioning electronic control unit, for the Russian components in the ATV. But the engineers were able to rectify the problem eventually.
By and large it is fair to say that it is not down to the ATV Einstein on its own, but to the pedigree of the ATV project as a whole with its preparation phases, that Astrium is the only supplier capable of developing the European Service Module (ESM) of NASA's Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV).


Initially there were plans to use a shuttle (HERMES) – similar to the NASA space shuttle – to go to a free flying space laboratory called Man Tended Free Flyer (MTFF). This idea was part of the first feasibility study commenced before the birth of the ATV programme. Even after the ATV development phase, the ASTRIUM advanced project team worked on derivatives of ATVs with manned and unmanned return capabilities. There is one reason, however, why these concepts never materialized: The budget required for the development and operation of such a vehicle.


The number of ATVs and frequency of launches is not determined by logistical requirements. The largest cost factor is the Columbus science laboratory. This is reimbursed with the use of the ATVs. This kind of barter payment is a standard means of reimbursing the costs and activities of other space agencies. For ATV-4 the most important cargos for Europe are the spare water pump assembly and the FASES experiment. This experiment will shed a light on single and multiple interfaces, as affected by various surfactants. An important part of the programme aims at establishing links between emulsion stability and physico-chemical properties of droplet interfaces. Further experiments are planned to investigate droplet dispersion in emulsions and phase inversion. On the basis of these studies, the team will generate a model of emulsion dynamics to be transferred to industrial applications. The original Space Oddity by David Bowie described Major Tom “sitting in a tin can”. Astrium’s ATV programme has built the most capable flying tin cans in history. How about that Ground Control? Chris Hadfield might just agree!

Taking the stress out of stress engineering

Torsten Broesigke job is stressful. However before you shed a tear, you should know that ‘stress’ is his job. His job is to predict and calculate how various forces affect materials and structures used in aeronautics, balancing weight reduction and stability. We met up with Torsten to find out more about his role.

Torsten Broesigke job is stressful
Mr. Torsten Broesigke

What is the most stressful part of being a stress engineer?

It is making sure the calculations required for the construction phase are ready in time. Adhering to deadlines in order for the airplane to safely manoeuvre through the air is our main assignment. This includes a vast array of both mathematics and physics calculations. Usually this is achieved with the help of the Finite Element Method (FE) by which a computer programme simulates a structure. All forces (expansion, tension, etc.) are calculated by the programme. Of course, all Airbus aircraft are physically tested in all parts, as certification requires, but at this stage of the process, we use virtual tests, which take a lot of time and cost out of the development process. Each part to be constructed is subjected to the computer programme before manufacture. The aim is to minimise weight and maximise stability. My job is largely about calculating the structure of an aircraft’s tail unit impacted by air loads.


What are the three most important prerequisites for your job?

An important prerequisite is a good command of spoken English, as well as a very good knowledge of Mathematics! And – needless to say – you need a degree in engineering. I am a civil engineer by discipline, with a strong personal background in statistics, mathematics and physics with an emphasis on mechanics. Another very important point is the desire (and ability) to document your work properly. This is actually very important, as other colleagues need to be able to interpret your findings accurately in order to complete their work. Flexibility is paramount as you often need to cooperate with other departments including load simulation, finance, construction and many more. It is often necessary, to push the material to the extreme limit. These limits have to be quantified which is achieved via computer simulation. The details are very complex and you need to be able to keep an eye on the whole process. Additionally to that, it is an advantage to have a strong knowledge in material technology (such as carbon fibre) and how they react under various conditions such as heat, frost, damage impact, torsion and so forth.


Which aspects of your daily work will gain importance over the next five years? And which will decline?

What will decline: The work we will have to put into the development of the A400M will certainly decrease as we are nearing the end of the development phase. The next five years, however, will see a strong need for documentation of the work we have done over the past few years. A number of additional calculations will probably be required for the empennage along the way to make sure we have done everything right. What will increase in importance: After we have completed the pre-production phase and all measures have been signed off, stepping into serial production comes into sight. Before this particular gateway we only use pre-serial parts. From here on it is important to achieve serial production maturity for the parts.


What is the most obvious difference when working in cross-culturally assembled teams?

The people coming from different cultural backgrounds usually have different ways of solving problems. It is actually quite interesting to observe how it develops during the daily work day after day. I tend to believe that a typical German like myself thinks more in terms of limitations, whereas Spanish, French or Italian colleagues think in terms of opportunities. I am always amazed by their communicational skills. As English is our common language and the command of the language is very high throughout the team, we can usually achieve outstanding results. An interesting difference in the procedure is: Germans tend to write e-mails, whereas colleagues from other countries prefer to pick up the phone and talk things over.


What typical software products do you use most?

Microsoft Office, especially Excel und Visual Basic (for smaller routines) as well as MSC Patran Nastran (FE Programmes). The most common programming language is Fortran. Candidates wanting to pursue a career in aeronautical engineering usually master this kind of software with ease.


Do you have a preference for either the analysis of mechanical systems (like a rotor) or do you prefer the more intimate examination of an aircraft’s ‘skeleton’?

Both aspects are very rewarding. Right now, my work is mainly geared towards the structure, the skeleton of an aircraft if you will. In my position I am specifically responsible for the structure of the VTP (vertical tail plane). That doesn’t mean I have no contact with the team working on the mechanical and electrical systems, but it is not my area of responsibility.


What is the most exciting phase of an aircraft development programme for you and does the size of an aircraft have a direct impact on the stress parameters or is this merely a linear function?

The dimensioning phase is the most interesting phase. This is where it all comes together. We usually receive the outer shape of the vertical tail and then fill it with all the necessary details so the part can be produced. This is actually my favourite phase of the construction process as there is an immense amount of detail to be taken into account. And obviously the sheer size of an aircraft does have an enormous impact on the forces being calculated.


Are you involved in the test-flight routines as well?

Not directly. The stress analyst is like a customer of the real life testing routines. Usually the test aircraft executes manoeuvres that would be very difficult to compute (for example the impact of wake turbulence).


What parameters are used to determine real testing versus computer simulation?

Most loads are created and calculated with the help of wind tunnel models. At present, wake turbulence is still quite difficult to simulate. As a result these forces are often tested in test flights. Strain gauges are used to measure the effects that the various forces have on the structure. In military aircraft programs this kind of routine is quite common, but in the civilian sector it is relatively new. We scrutinize results predicted via computer with the actual results measured in the aircraft when performing the test programme. The basic effects of such in-flight manoeuvres can be calculated in computer simulations, but not all the data we require. So real testing is the only way to acquire it.


When looking at the various dimensions of analysis (static, dynamic, fatigue, damage tolerance, fluid mechanics or thermal) what is the most demanding factor or dimension?

Damage tolerance is the least predictable task. There are numerous parameters influencing the way in which damage occurs. Heat, moisture, the position of the part in question, materials adjacent to the part, air pressure, and age can all be influential. It helps to be an experienced engineer, but you can’t relinquish life testing. It is mandatory.


Is linear analysis always less complex than non-linear?

Yes. But that does not mean they are not complicated at all. Calculating non-linear processes requires scrutiny of damaged material and changes in stiffness. That is much more complex than calculating the forces impacting materials in linear processes. Environmental conditions like heat or moisture can alter the way in which a certain material will react to loads. All these parameters change the outcome (i.e. deformation) of parts in question. This is why the task in linear processes is slightly less complicated than in non-linear. Non-linearity just multiplies the options of the material to react.


What advice would you give students who want to become stress engineers?

If you want to start working with EADS you should be one of the best in your class. And always keep the following in mind: Whatever you develop and plan to do, it has to be feasible. That means someone has to be able to physically build it.


Which technology, methodology or material do you consider world-class in your field of work?

Clearly that is composite material. Airbus is a world leader in this area. The numerous innovations we have been able to bring to market in the past and continue to do so today are the result of a broad and deep knowledge base. This knowledge helps us to precisely predict how advanced materials behave under loads and environmental conditions.


What is special about your job on the A400M programme (complexity, innovation, military, leading-edge product)?

Besides certain flight-manoeuvres in testing of military aircraft that are uncommon for civil aircraft, - so they were new to me and to the team - the particular specialty of the assignment we currently are working on is the fact that this shape (the T-Tail) is a novelty for Airbus. This might seem unusual, as T-shaped tails have been in use for quite some time in other EADS divisions, but it was the first time for Airbus to use this particular tail unit shape. The building, testing and documentation to develop our knowledge base were both very challenging and very rewarding.


Why does the A400M have a top-positioned horizontal tailplane and which impact does it have on the overall VTP development, engineering and manufacturing process?

Airflow and inertial forces apply to the tail unit. The T-shape enables a more stable flight attitude and it is easier for loading and unloading, including air drops and keeps the HTP (horizontal tail plane) outside the airflow produced by engines and wing. The use of composites in aeronautics is truly innovative and cutting edge technology. The parts are manufactured from several layers and then cured together. It is quite different from the technology used in the automotive industry. The biggest advantage is the increase in potential payloads. Everyone working with composites enjoys being involved in cutting edge technology that will ultimately benefit millions of people around the globe – be it on earth, in the sky or in space.

I for innovation, internationality and India – Cassidian presents its first products designed in India

Cassidian engineers have designed the first defence technologies ‘made in India’. This pioneering achievement marks a new milestone in Cassidian‘s strategy to increase its industrial presence in the country – and also plays a big role in extending Cassidian’s global footprint by advancing in one of the most important BRIC countries.

Nisha Krishnankutty, Head of HR BP Cassidian Asia and Pacific, in front of the EADS Pavilion at Aero India in February 2013

Innovation made in India

The Cassidian Engineering Centre in Bengaluru, India has been tasked with developing cutting edge technologies for the past 2 and half years. Indian engineers at the centre have developed the RVSM compliant High Accuracy Altimetry System (RCAS) and the Structurally Integrated Antenna (SIA).

RCAS is a critical on-board pressure sensor providing highly accurate altitude readings to aircraft systems. The high accuracy pressure reading is needed to calculate flying altitude accurately so that available air space can be utilized efficiently. This technology is required to comply with Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum (RVSM) standards. The device is highly miniaturized, modular and designed to meet military Qualification standards. The software conforms to the highest level of design assurance (Risk Class 1). As the requirement of operating military aircraft in dense civilian airspace is increasing, this innovative technology has vast applications. Revenue estimates are considerable.

Development challenges

Monitoring the pressure accurately in the flight environment is the biggest challenge. Currently, no conventional air data systems provide such accuracy. The aircraft installation is another challenge. The entire product has been designed and developed in India with support from German counterparts. This is a good example of team collaboration between two countries – and across two continents.

The Structural Integrated Antenna (SIA) is a novel concept designed to embed the Antenna within the structure of the Vehicle. This integration reduces the maintenance, aerodynamic drag and radar cross section of the Vehicle thus making it completely free of protruding antennas.

The concept allows the integration of different types of antennas ranging from communication applications to electronic warfare (EW) & radar applications across the spectrum in vehicle structures. Structural Integrated Antenna for satellite and GPS applications have been indigenously designed in India.

Making inroads into new markets

This is just the beginning. Cassidian displayed these technologies during Aero India for the first time. The current focus is to identify and approach potential customers and markets for these innovative products via Cassidian’s extensive global sales channels. First responses from potential Indian customers during Aero India were very positive.

Congratulating the engineers on their achievement, Cassidian India CEO Dr. Peter Gutsmiedl, said: “Our first two products ‘made in India’ for world-wide application demonstrate the innovative defence engineering capabilities we have established in Bengaluru. This centre supports our global technology initiatives and gives Cassidian a competitive advantage in India: It allows us to customise global products to local requirements, especially in areas such as UAVs, radar solutions and security systems.”

Structurally Integrated Antenna (SIA)
High Accuracy Air Pressure Measurement System (HAAPMS)
The Structurally Integrated Antenna (SIA) and the High Accuracy Air Pressure Measurement System (HAAPMS) both designed by the Cassidan Engineering Centre in India

Centre of Excellence

EADS’ plans to increase its global footprint included further efforts in India. The facility in Bengaluru is part of Cassidian’s global engineering organization and was conceived as a ‘centre of excellence’ – a single source supplier of certain technologies. Inaugurated in 2011, the Cassidian Engineering Centre is the first defence orientated facility owned by a foreign company in India. Currently, approximately 60 Indian engineers are employed there. Most were trained at Cassidian’s R&D facilities in Europe. They now bring know how and expertise to India to serve the local market. The broad knowledge of the markets and the particular advantages of long standing relationships with opinion leaders and decision makers alike are a big plus in precisely catering to local demand and further developing the Asian markets. Innovations like RCAS and SIA are just the beginning.

Impediments along the way

There are a number of challenges in terms of export control & national security regulations. They make the entire task of delivering the final product more challenging. Additionally the dependency of third parties in delivering components in time and meeting the milestones are critical. These are, however, normal challenges in any product development process.

Internationality wins

With diminishing global boundaries and business becoming more and more international, the capability to successfully cooperate in multinational and multicultural environments is very important for Cassidian. Nisha Krishnankutty, Head of Human Resources India and Asia Pacific says: “Fortunately In India most engineers speak good English and can communicate well, also most have had previous experience of working with international teams. It is important for employees to be aware of the cultural differences while working in a global environment”. Cassidian India enjoys the best of both worlds. Firstly, as a small and agile Indian Company (Cassidian India) we can act quickly, secondly, as part of the EADS/Cassidian Value Network, we have access to and can leverage EADS European experience to bring maximum benefit to our Indian customers. This puts Cassidian in a better competitive position in cost sensitive markets such as India.

Global expansion

If other nations can successfully supply defence products in this market, so can a European company. Proper alignment on globalisation, however, is required and cost advantages must be leveraged for successful globalisation. The HR expert says “The company’s globalisation strategy must be clear to all stakeholders and KPI’s (key performance indicators) must be measured for each global strategic action plan. Cassidian can reap the benefits of global expansion much more quickly and smoothly this way”.

For Cassidian it is paramount to have a product portfolio that is relevant and tailored to the Indian/APAC markets’ particularities. At this point it is important to win projects and penetrate the market. A “one size fits all” approach will not be successful.

Global best practices

Cassidian India operates according to global best practices in India. It was recently awarded the widely recognized aerospace industry quality certification – EN/AS 9100. This offers an excellent opportunity to export innovations like RCAS or SIA to countries around the world thus enabling others to benefit from the advantages that India can offer. Cassidian India is perfectly placed to serve as a springboard thus gaining greater visibility in the other Asian Markets. Cassidian is moving fast to change the perception from being a European to an international organisation and this is a step in the right direction. This cultural change is working its way slowly but surely across all Cassidian employees and divisons. Thinking and acting internationally represents a considerable shift in the mind-set.

First positive results

Cassidian’s participation at Aero India in February 2013 was very successful, generating considerable interest among attendees. The team of Andleeb Shadman who heads the Engineering department includes Jayant Chatterjee, Guru Raghavendra, Dhaval Makhecha, Rohit Jain, Abdul Aziz and Sudhin Bopiah, was present on the EADS stand and explained the technologies to visitors. It became clear, that few people had heard of Cassidian or knew about its field of work. However, press and visitors recognised Cassidian’s association with Airbus. As Cassidian has gained increasing awareness in the job market, the ranking in the market has improved considerably. Cassidian continues to grow in significance for the Indian job market. It is fair to say that more ‘I’s will come out of India in the not too distant future.

When ‘lean’ enhances career options
The helicopter has come a very long way since the nineteen thirties.

Eurocopter’s Head of Chief Engineering Development Helicopters Axel Humpert gives High Flyer an insight into the present and future of rotary aviation

What are the most promising developments in helicopter technology?

It’s no secret that the helicopter is an incredibly complex piece of machinery. Development, production and operating costs are huge factors in the furtherment of rotary aviation and consequently we are constantly striving to reduce all three to make the helicopter even more competitive vis a vis fixed wing aircraft. No less significant is the impact technological advances have on operational safety. Nevertheless the possibility of human error is ever present. As such, technology helps us both to prevent errors occurring in the first place and and to mitigate the possible consequences should accidents happen. To this end we are working to provide ever more affordable all weather capability; improve situation awareness and ease communications. For our customers however it is just as important that we work to extend flight domains, ease maintenance and reduce down times. It goes without saying that reducing emissions and noise as well as improving our green credentials from development through to operation are mission critical.


One example of the application of new technologies is the X3 which has demonstrated that hovering and cruising need not be mutually exclusive. The concept clearly works - how can you move it on to the next level?

Forgive me for blowing the Eurocopter trumpet – the X3 achieved a significant speed milestone in June this year which we are immensely proud of. 255 knots in level flight is record-breaking stuff. Our next target is to make this kind of performance affordable, balance payload versus take-off weight, reduce noise and integrate mission equipment through architecture evolution. In order that the customer gets the best deal, we need to first sit down at the table with potential operators, discuss their specific needs and then clarify certification requirements.


Let’s briefly enter the realms of fantasy – Can the jet engine and rotor technology be married to one another?

In principle the answer is “Yes”. However we still need a mechanical link to drive the rotor - whether this is a piston engine, turbine or electrically driven motor: Research is on going.


Is the pilotless helicopter at all realistic?

Our optionally piloted vehicle (OPV) was validated in April this year so clearly we have answered the technology question. The challenge is to avoid any potentially catastrophic events, which is where we are focusing our R&D; although we already have the pilotless cockpit up and running, I think we are still a decade from a fully viable commercial proposition. As I said - I believe the major challenge is gaining public confidence in such systems.


Will the market see more of the multi-rotor aircraft such as the octocopter which is currently used as a toy?

Our competitors are busy developing the pusher propeller, or the tilt rotor, or they are relying on the Tandem Rotor seen in the Chinook and we have our X³ Compound. However the fact remains the more turning parts we have, the more we have to improve efficiency to compensate for weight & power requirements. Despite certain advantages regarding centre of gravity management issues I don’t see a future for the octocopter for two reasons: 1) the exorbitant operating costs and 2) the payload limitations.


Are there materials other than composites which would potentially qualify as the next big technological revolution in aeronautics?

New technologies are key. Particularly carbon fibre because of its weight, anti-corrosion and fatigue characteristics. The next big thing could well be an old friend – the metal industry is far from dead and buried. We know that there is a lot of research work being done on alloys. However it is too early to make any predictions or come to any conclusions.


Flying a helicopter is hard work for the pilot. What is being done to make the task easier?

Eurocopter utilises fly by wire systems which in turn are managed by our flight control laws. We work constantly to enhance the levels of stability and controllability governed by these protocols. Additionally flight envelope protection which prevents the pilot from forcing the aircraft to exceed its structural and aerodynamic operating limits gives us both active and passive means of protection. One of the most promising projects is linking our situational awareness systems to the flight director. We don’t want stressed pilots!


Are other forms of energy (solar, wind) for thrust usage able to play a role in helicopter development at all?

Yes and no. Our onboard electrical cells are replenished by solar energy. We are however a long way from being able to lift a helicopter plus payload with solar cells alone. Park this question with me and let’s come back to it in fifteen years …


Are we going to see helicopters being able to ascend beyond 20.000 feet? What are the technical issues in flying at such altitudes?

In technical terms the capability to do is already there. Eurocopter set a world record for landing and taking off at altitude in 2005 when an Ecureuil/AStar AS 350 B3 landed on Mount Everest (8848m/29000ft). Apart from the benefit of being able to rescue stranded climbers it does beg the obvious question – why would we otherwise want to take helicopters to such extreme altitudes? The technical issues are straightforward: higher altitude, corresponds to lesser air density and lower oxygen levels which in turn results in a need for more power just when the power you have available is reduced.


What is the most rewarding moment during the development process of a new helicopter model?

In my experience there are two key events: the first flight, and the day an aircraft receives its airworthiness Certification. Both are unique moments in the development of a new aircraft.


Is hardware (material) or software development more promising for the future of helicopter flying?

I see the trend developing in both directions. I have already touched on materials technology but the increasing use of new software technology including hybrid systems, fly-by control, computers) makes huge demands on software development. Ultimately it is all about improving safety and ease of operation, and providing a higher level of mission versatility.


How could fuel consumption be minimised further?

The engine is one area which immediately benefits from the introduction of new materials with particular impact on fuel consumption in the hot combustion chamber and turbines); Aerodynamic optimisations, morphing, that is changing the profile) of control surfaces, Hybridisation, adaptive systems and functions such as variable rotor RPM all bring benefits.


What standard software programs are a must for anyone wanting to get into the helicopter development business?

In Aerodynamics Camrad, Stress and Nastran are the “usual suspects”, however I strongly recommend that every engineer maintain and exercise the ability to crosscheck computed results using simple formula, calculating things in your head or on paper. It may sound old-fashioned but using your brain is key. Knowing the DO178 civil certification standard process for avoidance of safety critical malfunctions and verification activities back to front, inside out and upside down helps immensely!


What facilitates your job – what impedes it?

The task is made much easier by being organised and structured in your communications. Matrix organisation, development processes, tools and methods are all key factors but ultimately success in this business boils down to the team and their spirit. We also make intense use of our EADS and Eurocopter networks applying our new Development Logic “O2”, which enables us to incorporate the experiences of the past into the projects of the future. We talk about the plateau way of working, with all key contributors sitting in the same area. At the same time the job is hard because of the sheer organizational complexity, and I spend a huge amount of time travelling.


Are the other divisions or departments involved in the programme in any way? If so, how?

For R&D purposes we work very closely with EADS Innovation Works and obviously Airbus, Cassidian & Astrium and our National Research Centres and Institutes are consulted on a frequent basis.

What made you want to join Eurocopter? What sparked your interest in aviation or particularly in helicopters?

I blame my dad! As a child I can clearly remember him taking me up in his small private plane. It was a wonderful experience for a small boy. Not long after I started building my own radio-controlled aircraft. By then the bug had really got me! I found helicopters particularly fascinating because of their multi-functionality. Studying Aeronautical engineering at university fuelled the fascination even further. When it came to applying for jobs one interview sticks out in my mind and that was at Eurocopter with my (future) boss Walter Sinn. It didn’t take long to make my mind up! He taught me so much - not just in terms of technology but also how to lead people. Passion and people make this business and that might sound surprising, but without that hunger we wouldn’t be flying at 255 knots and landing on Mount Everest!

Discover why EADS matters



What is the common point between a sales director, a software development manager, a stress engineer and a dynamic systems engineer? “The reward of my job is making it fly” says Fanny, about the helicopter she’s working on. The same goes with a satellite (James), a plane (Margaret), an unmanned aircraft (Hans)… Watch the testimonials of our employees to discover how their jobs at EADS matter. And maybe yours soon?