03/2014

Ideas in flight. Aerospace lives from ideas and innovation. Fly Your Ideas is an engagement between universities and Airbus. If you have an idea then why not apply?

Interns at Airbus Defence and Space learn very quickly to work in sprints with regular scrums. Confused? Read on.

How ideas learn to fly

The Aerospace industry lives from ideas and innovation. The search for ideas underpins the future of aviation. Airbus’ “Fly Your Ideas” is a global programme which engages with universities and students worldwide from every possible academic discipline.

 
Charles Champion, Airbus Executive Vice President Engineering is a man with almost thirty five years of experience in aerospace having started his career with Aérospatiale in 1980. On becoming Executive Vice President of Engineering at Airbus in 2010, one of Champion’s first projects was to extend Airbus’ search for new talent further afield by establishing partnerships with universities outside of Europe and the US. Champion went on record stating “I really believe this will help take a step away from the traditional ‘old boys’ type approach… We have a global footprint and getting engineers from countries such as India, China and Russia will help. Engineers you work with are very competent people, but some tend to re-use the old ideas that they’re familiar with.”
 

Four years on and his enthusiasm for the aerospace industry remains clearly unabated. A cornerstone project helping to generate innovative ideas within the aerospace community has been the Fly Your Ideas programme which was launched in 2008. Since then, over 11,000 students from 600 universities in over 100 countries have taken part. The latest challenge which kicked off in September is open to teams of 3 to 5 students currently studying for a Bachelors, Masters or PhD in any academic discipline. The challenge consists of three rounds leading to a final in June 2015 where the top selected teams resent their ideas to a panel of Airbus and industry experts. The winners share a prize of €30,000 and the runners up a prize of €15,000.

How ideas learn to fly

Not surprisingly however, it isn’t about the money… as Champion elaborates,

”Innovation is at the heart of Airbus. A strong pioneering spirit has made Airbus a leading manufacturer. Airbus people are driven by a restless desire to find better ways of flying and Fly Your Ideas is just about that. Any student with a vision and drive to make their world a better place is invited to enter the competition. We know how to put innovation to work and we will take your ideas seriously”

There is however a very tangible benefit to Airbus as a company in terms of developing its human resources. Fly Your Ideas is unique amongst student competitions due to the level of support teams receive from Airbus employees. Each team that progresses to Round 2 is assigned an Airbus Mentor and an Airbus Expert. (Over 400 Airbus employees have been involved in each team that progresses to Round 2 of the competition to date).

How ideas learn to fly

Kevin Keniston working within Airbus Group on Market and Product Strategy puts it in a nutshell, “Fly Your Ideas is rewarding for everyone involved – from Airbus employees who experience first-hand the enthusiasm and creativity of students from around the world – and the students who have a golden opportunity to develop and present their ideas on a global stage alongside some of Airbus’ leading industry experts.”

The challenge enables students to develop technical and soft skills including team work, project management and communication. High Flyer spoke to two previous Fly Your Ideas team members, Benjamin Lindenberger and Mark Spiteri, to understand what they gained from the programme.

Where did you go to university and what was your degree?

Benjamin: Universität Stuttgart, Dipl.-Ing Luft- und Raumfahrttechnik (Aerospace Engineering)

Mark: I currently attend university at RMIT (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology) in Melbourne, Australia and study a double Bachelor in aerospace engineering and business management

How did your interest in aerospace develop?

Benjamin: My main interest in school was science. I heard about a university course “Aerospace Engineering” in school and was immediately hooked.

Mark: I was always interested by how things worked mechanically and was very curious after attending the Australian Airshow during high school.

How did you hear about Fly Your Ideas?

Mark: Fly Your Ideas was advocated throughout RMIT University by academic staff.

Benjamin: In 2008/09 I was in Australia for 7 months attending the University of Queensland (Brisbane) to finalise my studies with a research project. Our Professor forwarded the announcement of the FYI Challenge and together with 2 PhD students we decided to participate.

How did your team develop? Who else was on the team? What were their backgrounds (both culturally and in terms of academic disciplines)? What are they doing now?

Mark: My team came together via a propulsion course that we were taking. We were all studying for the Bachelor of aerospace engineering at RMIT (although one was in the middle of his PhD at the time). We had a mixture of cultural roots. Right now, one is continuing with his Bachelor, as am I; another is in the middle of his PhD, while a third has just started hers. The final team member is currently completing his Master’s degree.

How long did it take to get your idea off the ground? What were the driving factors in moving your project forward?

Mark: It took some time to specifically define our idea and where the boundaries were. Driving factors included visits to local companies relevant to the natural gas industry, as well as displaying the idea at the 2013 Australian Air Show.

Benjamin: Each of us came up with some ideas. In a brainstorming session we then selected the most promising and developed it further. Finally, our idea was to develop a composite material for aircraft cabin application which is 100% bio-based. In the end we found out that it is possible to extract reinforcing fibres from the castor plant. By embedding these fibres in a polymer purely made out of castor plant (castor oil) as well, we were able to manufacture the world`s first “single plant” composite material.

How did your mentors and the experts at Airbus help you develop your project?

Mark: The mentors and experts at Airbus were very knowledgeable and challenged us to think about the systems we were proposing, how they would work and things that we still needed to consider. Their experience was very helpful and definitely improved the concept through online communication.

Benjamin: For the first edition of FYI our mentor was able to address all the issues we had. For the final round (Top 5) we also received coaching for the presentation we had to give in front of the jury.

With the FYI 2015 challenge criteria in mind what is your own view of where the challenges in commercial aerospace lie?

Benjamin: As long as no alternative propulsion systems can cope with the current jet engines, a major challenge of the future will be to cover the overall fuel consumption at reasonable costs with the fossil and regenerative resources we have available on our planet.

Mark: I believe that one of the challenges in the aerospace industry lies in implementing new, clean, cheaper and efficient fuels for use in commercial aircraft. As jet fuel reserves diminish, I believe that the sector must look to a new source and implement technology to ensure a low cost of production, less fuel, with improved reliability and increased efficiency.

How did Fly Your Ideas help you to plan/structure your career both in general terms and more specifically at Airbus?

Benjamin: Parallel to the FYI participation, I completed my aerospace engineering degree. Subsequently I applied to Airbus and was offered a position in Bremen working in Composite Technology as part of Material & Processes. This was a good opportunity to continue my academic training as one of my major subjects was Material Science and Lightweight Design and both research projects as well as the FYI Challenge were linked to composite materials. During that period I became Technical Assistant to the Head of Materials & Processes.

Mark: I was able to complete an internship with Airbus S.A.S directly after the competition, therefore giving me the opportunity to experience how the company works and to be part of the exciting projects that are happening there.

 

Charles Champion, Airbus Executive Vice President Engineering speaking about the 2015 Fly Your Ideas Challenge underlines the idea behind the challenge,
“Airbus believes that diversity is a key driver of innovation and business performance. Airbus is a global company with a diverse workforce of over 55,000 people representing 100 nationalities and speaking over 20 languages. That’s why we want this year’s FYI teams to be as diverse as possible both in terms of culture as well as academic discipline.”

Students benefit enormously from Fly Your Ideas. It represents true interaction between the classroom and the workplace. Students can make their voices heard within the sustainable aviation industry of the future. While not every idea makes it into production, it is the generation of ideas which keeps Airbus flying.

Sprints and Scrums
 

Our apologies if you thought you were about to read all about how Airbus Defence & Space fosters sport and fitness among its interns. The sporting terminology is however particularly appropriate in this context. An internship is the best way of learning both how a company ticks and which position is best suited to you. High Flyer talks to German IT interns Marius Streilein and Ingmar Platz as well as mentor Tim Boecker about life as an apprentice team player at Airbus Defence and Space.

 
Sprints and Scrums
 

Since childhood, Airbus Defence and Space intern Marius Streilein has been fascinated by computers and technology. Not surprisingly, on finishing school he decided to study applied information technology at the Ravensburg-Weingarten University of Applied Sciences.

“The course enabled me to learn a range of programming languages including all the tools required for programming, project management and information technology in general.”

Fellow intern Ingmar Platz who comes from the tiny German village Gottmadingen not far from the Swiss border is more outdoors focused,
“My hobbies are wrestling and sailing. After completing my diploma I started a course in Computer Networking, a course focusing specifically on IT security at the HFU Furtwangen.” Currently in his 5th term, Ingmar plans to graduate in 2016 with a BSc.

Sprints and Scrums

The market for IT graduates is enormous and companies such as Airbus Defence and Space have long since recognized that they have to go to increasing lengths to attract the best candidates,

Marius: “After starting to look at placement opportunities I heard about Airbus Defence & Space‘s Expiscor IT event, basically an “Open day” offering an overview of current internships, the opportunity to talk about specific traineeships and finally a C.V. coaching session. I signed up to attend and applied for an internship.”

Marius and Ingmar have a clear view on what they can gain from an IT internship, Marius: “I can experience what is really happening within the company and how software development procedures are actually applied on a large-scale project. Within the confines of my degree, this can only be dealt with superficially, if at all.” Ingmar is already thinking about the future, “The advantages are being able to put theoretical knowledge into working practice. Additionally I can build my contacts base for a dissertation and any future projects I may have.”

Like many IT students, both Marius and Ingmar were determined to maximize their chances of getting the best possible internship in the market. Personal targets and knowing what they wanted to achieve played a significant role in the selection process, namely to get the inside view of life as a software developer while learning as much as possible about project and time management.

Marius: “I initially applied for a number of traineeships using the online application tool and subsequently via a contact I made at the Expiscor event.”

Ingmar: “The application process was well-organised and very quick. The Expiscor event played an important part in networking.”

Sprints and Scrums
 

An open dialogue with internship candidates at the interview stage impressed Marius: “During the interview I was told I would be embedded into the team from the start and would be actively involved in the development process. The aim being of course that the internship gives me a comprehensive insight into software development and how a large software project actually functions.”

Marius: “From day one I was fully integrated into the team I am working with. After a while I was able to take responsibility for individual projects within the main contract.”

Ingmar: “A short introductory phase including being made aware of security regulations as well as other formalities marked the start of my internship. In the meantime I have got used to the structure of a normal working day here.”

The “normal working day” at Airbus Defence & Space involves being familiar with the decidedly non-aerospace sounding “Scrum”, as Marius explains,
“I was introduced to the flexible software development process tool known as “Scrum” from the start. I begin the day working on my own specific tasks or discuss issues within the confines of my team until our daily “scrum” meeting at which each individual describes the status quo of his/her own project, focusing where necessary on problems that have arisen. Then I go back to my tasks or get down to programming, whilst all the time maintaining contact with one another. At the end of the so-called sprint (a term used to describe a two week project period) we conduct a sprint review during which we discuss tasks and work items together and set a date for the next sprint. IT is however not just about programming, a major part is documentation, testing, evaluation and communication. At the time of writing this I am in my third week and feel that I have already gained considerable insight into the world of work.

Scrum is an iterative and incremental agile software development framework for managing product development. It can be defined as "a flexible, holistic product development strategy where a development team works as a unit to reach a common goal.”

Scrum’s primary function is obviously as a project management tool – as Marius explains:
“Individual tasks are reviewed and checked by another team member before being signed off by the team as “completed”. The so-called sprint review enables the team to present the separate work packages to the product owner who then decides whether or not the tasks have been completed satisfactorily in accordance with the wishes of the customer. A review process with multiple built-in checks and balances is the most effective way of preventing mistakes from occurring.”

Ingmar highlights the benefits of the scrum as a means of reviewing the internship. “The scrums are there for us to discuss problems. At the same time I can always talk to my mentor. Midway through the internship there is a more comprehensive discussion on the progress I have made.”

Just to highlight how dynamic an environment the IT internship really is, Marius gave an example of his own progress at the beginning of the internship.

“I was entrusted with smaller tasks from day one and by the end of the second week I had already programmed a small tool designed to examine any two randomly-selected XML documents for any kind of similarities. The task also required programming the tool in C# which I hadn’t done before so I had to learn this programming language beforehand and “on the job”.

Clearly both interns are benefitting enormously from the hands-on approach at Airbus Defence & Space.

Marius: “I really enjoy the atmosphere, both within the team and the company as a whole so I could well envisage working for the Airbus Group in IT, developing software.”

Ingmar: “This is a global company which has a vested interest in helping its people to move up the ladder. In five years I would hope that I had enough experience in the industry to be able to perform the assistant role on a project before taking on my own projects in the future. Project management interests me immensely as I enjoy taking on the responsibility for the organization and structure of a project.”

Scrum Master and Software Developer Tim Boecker is Marius Streilein’s mentor:
“Where large, complex projects are concerned, it is critical that one sticks to the process, and maintains progress in a structured fashion. The interns need to be clear on this from the start. “Just kicking off” is not effective and experience has taught us that it isn’t the ideal way to achieve our goals. Scrum is an efficient means of providing us with a framework. Our interns learn about the scrum process on our Friedrichshafen site. The Airbus Defence & Space interns should experience the world of work as it really is so that they are prepared for what comes later (after their degree). At the same time we expect 100 percent and the highest possible motivation from our interns. They should be able to apply their academic knowledge in practice and thus help their own scrum team to achieve its set target.”

Sprints and Scrums
 

Scrums without the mud and shirt pulling that is associated with a game of rugby and sprints that don’t leave you red in the face after 100 metres. The world of IT within Airbus Defence & Space is a challenging and dynamic environment. Are you feeling sporty?

More than just an engine
 

According to award-winning French Chef Joel Robuchon “The secret of a good ratatouille (the world-famous, traditional French Provençal stewed vegetable dish) is to cook the vegetables separately so each will taste truly of itself.”

 
More than just an engin
 

Making the ingredients “speak for themselves” is a method which Airbus has come up with to improve the efficiency of the business as a whole and of the development of its aircraft in particular. A new lease of life for Airbus’ best-selling A320 and A330 aircraft with the name NEO (New Engine Option) is the talk of the town in the commercial aircraft business. The NEO programme however is about much more than just slotting a state of the art turbofan underneath the wing of the European manufacturer’s market-leading airliners.

When the Airbus A330 entered service in 1994, few commentators at the time would have imagined that this remarkable and popular aircraft (1,342 sales up to August 2014) would be granted a new lease of life over twenty years later. The “secret” ingredient is a concept which goes via the name of “NEO”.

More than just an engin

To understand the nature of the NEO programme, it makes sense to begin with the A330’s smaller stablemate, the A320. The NEO programme is the latest step in an enhancement project for this highly successful single aisle airliner. Above and beyond the introduction of two new jet engine choices – CFM International’s LEAP-1A and the PurePower PW1100G-JM from Pratt & Whitney, the A320neo family includes aerodynamic refinements, large curved wing tip devices (so-called “Sharklets”) and an improved cabin.

The benefits over the original A320 include a 15% lower fuel burn on the first aircraft being introduced into service in 2015 (this will increase to 20% by 2020), 8% lower operating costs, a 10% reduction in nitrous oxide costs and an increase in range of 500 miles. The new cabin allows for 20 more seats.

At the end of September the A320neo, completed its maiden flight lasting just under two and a half hours from Airbus' main site in Toulouse, France. The aircraft – carrying the registration F-WNEO – was flown by Airbus Experimental Test Pilots, Philippe Pellerin and Etienne Miche de Malleray, who kicked off a comprehensive 3,000 hour test flight programme encompassing all the variants in the NEO development fleet. “The aircraft really feels like an A320, which is great news,” said Airbus Flight Test Pilot Miche De Malleray, “I’m looking forward to flying it again as soon as possible.”

More than just an engin

“We felt at home,” added A320neo first flight Captain Pellerin, “This brand new baby is very promising!” The crew performed initial system checks and began the process of opening up the flight envelope, starting at an altitude of 6,000 ft. and climbing to 26,500 ft. The first production A320neo will be delivered to Qatar Airways in Q4 2015.

President and Chief Executive Officer of Airbus Fabrice Brégier said, "The aircraft, through its incremental innovations, combines the most efficient engine and aerodynamic technologies, as well as new cabin features to bring to market a product which will consume 20% less fuel per passenger."

Instead of building an all-new jet to replace the hugely successful A320, Airbus chose to improve its existing aircraft, believing that the lower purchase cost and faster time-to-market would win the backing of airlines. The decision has proved to be the right one – before the September maiden flight, Airbus had already sold more than 3,200 A320neos, comfortably outdistancing rival Boeing’s 737 Max, a similar upgrade to Boeing’s successful single aisle airliner. The A320neo’s success has led to a rethink within Airbus about how to continually improve its products. At Airbus this is called “incremental innovation”. Incremental development is the result of much internal consultation on the development of future projects. Rather than looking for ways in which to save money on development costs, incremental development was the natural way forward for a company which had already developed a complete portfolio of aircraft competing in virtually every segment of the commercial aircraft market. The next step was logically to improve those aircraft in the portfolio rather than creating brand new products. Airbus President and Chief Executive Officer, Fabrice Brégier, said the NEO programme is a prime example of the company’s incremental innovation strategy, citing the new engine option family’s more than 3,200 total orders received from 60 customers. “We have 60% market share so far, and we believe we will continue to lead the way with this fantastic A320neo Family,” he added during planeside comments after the no.1 aircraft’s successful landing. “It’s just the beginning for this programme!” The next NEO candidate is already waiting in the wings – the A330neo, due in 2017.

At this year’s Farnborough International Air Show in July, Brégier went on record expressing his confidence that the A330-800neo and A330-900 will be just as successful as their predecessors – in conversation with the German business daily newspaper Handelsblatt, Brégier was quoted saying “Our larger customers believe that we could sell over 1,000 A330neos”

The NEO concept

An efficient kitchen producing high quality cuisine is capable of juggling resources in an instant – it is awe-inspiring for example to observe a Michelin-starred restaurant kitchen “in the rush hour”. The same is true of an aircraft manufacturer like Airbus managing its resources to build world-beating airliners. Ranging from the original A300 to the world’s largest airliner, the A380, the menu at Airbus has something for every discerning airline. Winning an airline’s business is one thing, but maintaining the business over many years requires harnessing the resources available to Airbus in unusual ways. This is best described using the term Knowledge Management.

NEO and People

High Flyer talked to Daniel Baubil, Head of the A320 Family Programme

HF: How has Airbus started to structure “Knowledge Management”?

DB: Knowledge Management is based on the recognition that an organisation's most valuable resource is the knowledge of its people. This is not new. In recent years, Airbus has focussed on establishing an environment in which people are encouraged to create, share and use knowledge together for the benefit of the organisation, and each other, through systematic methods and tools to ensure that knowledge is shared throughout the business. A dedicated Knowledge Management team is available to support teams in all areas of Knowledge Management – developing new knowledge, capturing knowledge, retaining knowledge, and knowledge sharing including lessons learnt and a number of tools have been developed for example to transfer expertise when a person changes jobs or leaves the company, or RISE which is a method to capture and search through lessons learnt.

HF: Why is successful Knowledge Management crucial to the success of the NEO programmes?

DB: Knowledge Management is crucial to the success of all projects large and small as it ensures that Airbus has the right knowledge, in the right place, at the right time, avoids information overload and unnecessary documents, and ensures employees learn from others' experience and wisdom and can use this in the business. For example – Knowledge Management methods and tools were used on the A320neo wing to ensure that all lessons learnt from previous programmes were reviewed to see if they were applicable to the programme, and then the learning was integrated into the NEO programme. In the same way, lessons learnt from A320neo will be integrated into the A330neo development.

HF: Is NEO good for people development? Why?

DB: Any new project or programme is good for people as it allows them the opportunity to develop new skills, work with different colleagues and experience new topics. Working at Airbus offers people the opportunity to work on fast paced innovative projects in an international and multi-disciplinary environment and the A330neo is a great example of such a project.

“Twin Aisle Marketing Director” at Airbus, Jean Ladoues, explains how the NEO concept has been developed since the A320. “NEO is simply a great opportunity to establish a cross-feeding of knowledge between the Airbus aircraft programmes. We saw NEO almost as a recipe in a cook book, taking tried and trusted ingredients from various programmes within the group and applying them to other products, in this case the A330, an aircraft which has a wide customer base.”

Many observers in the industry have commented that the single and twin aisle segments in which the A320 and A330 have been so successful are central to the future success of Airbus Group. Both the A320neo and its larger stablemate the A330neo tick all the right boxes for passengers and carriers alike with considerably less financial outlay than for a brand new aircraft. Like well-prepared Ratatouille, Airbus’ new kids on the block are a triumph of logistics and clever resource management.