Rising to the rotorcraft challenge
Published: 14 Aug 2015
Céline Haefflinger has worked at Airbus Helicopters analysing major incidents, spent a year on secondment to China in the airframe design office, and is currently heading the company’s landing gear development effort.
How has your experience led to your current post?
My first job related to aviation was part of a training programme at Thales Avionics, in the packaging and conceptions department. The job was about integrating electronic packages within avionic systems, taking into account high thermo-mechanical constraints. I was, along with other engineers, helping Thales on a project for which the customer was Airbus. After that, I started to work for them as a subcontractor on a European research programme.
I remember the team spirit of the department and the motivation and professionalism of the people I was working with. This high level of motivation and solidarity is something I found out to be typical of the aeronautic world.
After that, I joined what was then Eurocopter and was in charge of the technical aspects for major incidents in the design office. I was dealing with fuel systems, landing gears and mission equipment. It was a great time to learn about helicopters. Dealing with major incidents gives you an immediate awareness about safety issues and the consequences of design decisions and non-quality events.
Also I got to know many activities outside the design office because treatment of major incidents involves other stakeholders such as production, customer support, and safety, airworthiness and quality departments.
What came next?
I then became a system engineer on landing gear development, integration and support for in-service life. This have me the opportunity to support in-service issues – a very operational aspect of the job – as well as working on new developments. For example, we were co-developing the H175’s landing gear with our Chinese partner and a UK supplier. I was then detached to China for more than one year to co-ordinate the airframe design office in China. After returning to Marignane,
France, I joined the dynamic systems department, and worked for four years with the H160 rotor design team. This experience allowed me to learn about helicopter flight mechanics and design.
What’s your role now?
I’m now head of the landing gear development department at Airbus Helicopters. There are two parts to my job: support for inservice life (support to the final assembly line, supporting the customer support team, major incidents) and new developments including the H160, for instance.
We have a lot of new developments in front of us over the coming years, which makes the job even more exciting.
What’s your favourite aspect?
I have a lot of parts I love in my job. For instance, I love the technical challenges we face, the team spirit of my team, how we try to continuously improve our way of working and knowledge, the involvement in future developments and how we participate in building the future of helicopters. I also love the management part of the job. I am passionate about what I do, and in the end the most difficult part of my job is to balance that passion and my personal/family life.
What makes it worthwhile?
I am proud when I look up to the sky and see a helicopter flying over, on a mission. The potential for new experiences is vast in this field, not just due to the complexity of the aircraft, but also because there are so many possibilities for co-operation and collaboration with companies from all over the world.
The rotorcraft industry still has many technical challenges to overcome. Although first flights of planes and helicopters occurred nearly at the same time, in the early 20th century, plane development and understanding grew very fast. Development of the modern helicopter really began after the Second World War. Due to the complex dynamic environment, many phenomena still need to be understood, which makes the job very interesting.