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Avionics and Systems

Avionics can be defined as 'Electronic Equipment used in the air'. This simple definition touches virtually every aspect of a modern aircraft, from the Engine Computers to the Fly-by-Wire Flight Control System. It will include in a military aircraft, Weapon Aiming and Release and in a civil airliner, the Cabin Entertainment System. It embraces all sorts of Transducers (devices which convert one kind of energy  to another) ranging across Gyroscopes, Fire Detectors and Hydraulic Actuators. The very latest aircraft, such as the A380 or the Boeing 787, can have hundreds of on-board computers.  In fact, the A380 has over 500 kilometres of wiring on each aircraft!

The Work

Systems Engineers work on new aircraft at the conceptual stage, studying and defining what technologies can be applied. At the design stage they generate detailed equipment specifications and design suitable equipments. They conduct and support flight trials and manufacture, and follow through to in-service. 

The sheer variety of systems you could look at include: aircraft icing protection, avionics for advanced combat aircraft, reducing the hazardous effects of on-board fire and explosion, overcoming the obselescence of older electronic components on in-service aircraft, improving aircrew situational awareness or the glass cockpit implementation, to name a few!

The sheer complexity of modern aircraft and constant pace of change in new available technologies places generates an enormous demand for trained engineers who enjoy understanding the latest technologies and their applications, making sytems engineers at the cutting-edge and 'high-value' end of aerospace technology, a place where many UK aerospace and defence companies are focusing their business for the future.

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Case Study

Alan Ovens

Product Assurance Engineer

At SELEX Galileo we are committed to meeting the needs and expectations of our customers, for which ensuring quality in the delivery and support of our products and services is essential.

We need to deliver high quality, reliable products as they protect the lives of servicemen and women in our armed forces. Helping them see and keeping them safe is our highest priority, so we need to ensure our products operate dependably in extreme conditions and hostile territory.

The Quality Function is committed to ensuring the safety of our products, compliance with the Company Code of Conduct, compliance with Statutory, Regulatory, Commercial and Security Requirements and reducing our environmental impact.

The transitional phase from University to working-life takes a bit of getting used to. Not being 100% sure of what I wanted to specialise in within SELEX Galileo was partly the reason why I opted for the Assurance role. Despite not having an Engineering background, Quality Assurance has provided me with excellent exposure to this exciting industry. I work in a team of approx 12 members, and together we make up the Assurance Team for the Praetorian side of the business.

As a Graduate Assurance Engineer, you can expect a challenge from day one. Working across the site on varying tasks with employees of various roles and responsibilities, you will find yourself regularly liaising with suppliers and customers alike. Since starting with the Assurance Team in Praetorian I have had the chance to carry out internal audits on site, as well as External Supplier Audits. I was also the sole representative of SELEX  Galileo UK in Rome when one of our customers visited a Work-Share Partner.

I have found the support-base in QA to be second-to-none, management fully support all aspects of our development through placements in Systems, Software, and Operational Assurance. I’ve recently started studying for my Chartership in the CQI and am fully supported through the company’s mentoring scheme.

As well as the day-to-day Assurance tasks, I’ve become actively involved in the ‘Fit For Future’ Initiative.  Endorsed by top-level management, ‘Fit For Future’ provides employees with a forum to put forward suggestions to continuously improve all aspects of the business.  In addition, along with two colleagues, I have recently created a ‘Starter Pack’ for new employees in the Praetorian group.

The Transnational Graduate Programme (TGP) provides the opportunity to work with our Italian/French/American colleagues through the Finmecannica Learning Induction Programme (FLIP.) Working with our foreign counterparts provides a great insight into how we do business abroad, and visiting other companies under the Finmecannica umbrella lets us see first-hand the range of products and services we provide. The Training and Development in this two year programme involves working across different sites and venues at various team-building and ‘Self Awareness’ courses. This enables the graduate community to get to know each other both on a business and on a social level, and I’ve found that this makes a real difference, especially to those who relocate.

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Rebecca Dingle

Industrial Designer

I joined SELEX Galileo in 2009 for a three-month summer placement following my first year at University studying Industrial Design. I applied for a Mechanical Engineering internship because I wanted to relate my design skills to real product situations. In my first year I worked with hardware engineers to redesign the casings for sensor nodes, which focussed on improving the ergonomics of the overall product. This project allowed me to improve my CAD skills and gave me experience of rapid prototyping. I am currently on my second summer placement at SELEX Galileo, where I am working on 3D concept visualisations for use in presentations, further improving my CAD skills and creating the opportunity to use different 3D software.

My degree enables me to look at a product’s function from a users perspective, linking engineering with user centred, aesthetic based design.

Working for SELEX Galileo has given me an insight into mechanical engineering, strengthening the skills I need at Loughborough University. It has provided me with a great advantage, enabling me to achieve a 2.1 for the second year of my degree. The opportunity to work in team and present my own ideas has improved my confidence, and when I returned to University for my second year I was voted Student Committee Chair of my Department. 

My experience at SELEX Galileo has given me the technical skills to create designs for manufacture, developing my sketch ideas into real products. I will use these new skills in the final year of my degree where I hope to complete a design task with SELEX Galileo for my major project.

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Rob Edmunds

Hardware Engineer

My role is Hardware Engineer within the PRAETORIAN Processor LRI Integrated Project Team. PRAETORIAN is the Defensive Aids Sub-System for the Eurofighter aircraft. The team is split into three areas; Development; Integration & Qualification and Production Support. I have been able to experience all three areas, giving me the opportunity to work in different environments and learn from a large number of different people.

Whilst working in the Integration and Qualification section, I was performing detailed testing over temperature, analysing the results against the requirements and documenting the findings.  I was also responsible for developing some LabVIEW Software for automating some of the repetitive hardware tests, ensuring that it was fit for use on the different versions of Hardware, and capable of interfacing with several different pieces of test equipment.

Under the production support area, I was working closely with the production team. This mainly involved performing faultfinding and diagnosis on the hardware, once failures occurred during the production/integration phases.

As a part of the design team I am responsible for the firmware redesign of one of the modules. I have to manage my own time and tasks to ensure that they align with the companies contractual requirements. All designs have to go through the Six Stage Firmware Design Process. With this design, I am responsible for producing all the documentation and justification behind the design for each of the six stage reviews. Once the Hardware is produced I will be responsible for design proving both the PCB and the Firmware, prior to the next level of integration.

In my role I have had a large variety of different experiences. The training I have received has been excellent. I have spent a week on a VHDL course, a week on a Systems Engineering Course, two days at a Programmable Hardware Conference and two days on a project management course. On top of this I’m working with very experienced and well respected engineers, all of which is helping in my personal development towards chartered status.

I have also had lots of opportunities to get involved in none engineering activities, such as initiatives looking at the future of the company and the work we do, as well as internal process improvements. This has given me the ability to learn about other aspects of the business, gain first had experience and input to the future direction of the Company.

I am also a volunteer member of the IET Young Professionals Network in the area, where we put on events for local engineers, scientists and the general public. SELEX Galileo has been very supportive of this work, even allowing me to attend a conference on work time. The Company has also recently agreed a simplified scheme with the IET for gaining Chartered status, using internal tools as proof of competencies, which reduces that large amount of paperwork required when applying for chartered status.

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Steve Nixon

Supportability Engineer

I work with the Supportability Engineering group in Luton, helping develop our Battlespace Protection and Awareness products. The group tends to have a high workload, so I was able to get started on projects and begin producing work right away. Thankfully, the learning curve was easy enough that it wasn’t a complete culture shock to me moving on from university lectures to full-time work, and the other engineers in my team were very good in giving me the support I needed to learn on the job.

I work with the Testability team, and have been heavily involved with the Eurofighter Typhoon project. Supportability Engineering is concerned with the entire life-cycle of every product: from design through to production; and operational use through to it being taken out of service. This gives you the opportunity to be involved in a wide variety of projects at different stages – much more so than in other business areas. Tasks that Supportability Engineers carry out include ensuring that customer requirements (e.g. reliability) for a system are met by working with the design teams and carrying out in-service support on the products.

My day to day tasks, so far, have involved doing analysis work on the self-diagnosis aspects of the equipment. This means working with the design team to get the necessary information, and I am currently coordinating a set of trial simulations with them to confirm the equipment capabilities for our customer. I have been to RAF Coningsby where SELEX Galileo has a support facility for the operational Typhoon squadrons, and will also have the opportunity to visit production facilities and partner companies in Italy, Germany and Spain. Apart from my engineering role, I also have a part in organising ‘end user’ visits, where groups of employees typically visit RAF stations to see the equipment in use and talk to the operators, which puts the work that we do at SELEX Galileo into an operational context.

The SELEX Galileo Transnational Graduate Programme has many benefits, not least of which is the social life! Moving from the North West meant that I was starting from scratch as I had no friends or family near Luton and the close-knit Graduate community is definitely a bonus. There’s usually something going on every week, whether its pub quizzes, barbecues or grudge matches at squash. Professionally, the Graduate Programme is accredited by the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) which I joined as a student. SELEX Galileo offers an easier application route to chartered engineer status than many other companies, and the opportunity to work in an industry as exciting as the Defence sector, with cutting edge platforms and technology, is something that I couldn’t recommend highly enough.

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