My first job at Bombardier (then Canadair) in 1984 was in Flight Sciences. Basically, Flight Sciences involves having a highly detailed knowledge about the complexity of an aircraft’s aerodynamics and how it influences its systems and structural design so the plane is technologically sound. From the very start I loved it and knew I’d found what I wanted to do!
Since then, over the years I’ve held many roles in the company as we have designed and developed new world-class aircraft, as well as made improvements to existing programs that meet or even exceed our customers’ needs. The diversity of projects and opportunities the company has offered me over the years is something I really love. But frankly, the most satisfying part of my job is working with some of the most brilliant and talented people in the industry. I learn from them every single day. And I can’t tell you how exciting it is to work together as we push the boundaries of what’s technologically possible and look for improvements in the functionality and performance of an aircraft.
To develop an aircraft three critical and distinct groups are required: Technical (analytics, programming, estimates, simulation, etc.), Systems (engine, electric, hydraulic, etc.) and Structure (fuselage, wing, etc.). Each one needs to work in sync with the other to achieve a final product. In Technical and Advanced Design, we get to “touch” everything at the very beginning of the process. This is important because aircraft are big, highly complex and expensive machines. Before any metal is cut you have to start by making sure your choice of system and structure technologies will all work well together, be safe and meet the customer’s expectations.
There are many business reasons for the development or improvement of an aircraft, including customer demand. In the case of new, clean-sheet aircraft, we’re talking five to 10 years into the future. While a request for a new or modified aircraft may seem straightforward enough at the beginning, it is actually just the start of a very long and intricate process. Very early in the aircraft design, we deal with a vast multitude of requirements and constraints that include things like: certification and safety rules; development, production and operating costs; time to market; design rules, etc. The fact of the matter is, one requirement can influence many others, and this inter-relationship has to be defined and then validated right at the beginning.
And we validate our designs is by creating a simulated model that will predict how the aircraft will behave, how the systems will interact between each other, and how it will meet the expected performance and cost. Basically, we’re trying to represent real life. To do this, you need to analyze, estimate, and run many mathematical equations. With the simulation model we then push it beyond all possible conditions it could realistically encounter. Why? Because before we move to the next critical phase of building the aircraft we have to make sure the entire aircraft environment performs in a predictable and consistent manner. In this way we ensure the safety and performance of the final product. You can’t have a better job than that!