Alison Eve – Airworthiness Support & Electronics Engineer


A DISCIPLINED MIND

Alison’s story is one of seeking out opportunities to do work that she enjoys and using her natural, transferable skills to form a long and interesting career. She didn’t jump straight into airworthiness – her career path has taken a number of twists and turns.

She originally wanted to be an architect but when her father suggested an engineering apprenticeship at the Royal Aircraft Establishment in Farnborough, she was drawn to this by her interest in physics, technical drawing and the sciences.

Alison reflected: “I found that electronics stood out for me, particularly the digital side – it spoke to my logical ‘left brain’ mind”; so at 16, she started her apprenticeship in Electronics Engineering. During the third year of her apprenticeship, she was entered into the UK Industrial Electronics Skill Olympics competition. She won and was given a place to represent the UK in the International Skill Olympics in Japan. Quite an achievement for a 19-year old.

After her apprenticeship, she spent 16 years as an Electronics Engineer, firstly in an electronics imaging company and then a telecommunications company before joining Cranfield Aerospace Solutions (CAeS) to work on the X-48 blended wing aircraft development for which CAeS was contracted by a combined Boeing/NASA team to design and manufacture an aircraft sub-scale demonstrator.

“It was this project that stands out as the greatest achievement of my career,” she said “especially the moment of first flight” that took five years to get to. She remembers distinctly being on the hangar floor at 10pm on a Saturday night, working to make a wing flap fit as the countdown moved swiftly towards First Flight day. After build completion, she spent time at Edwards’ Airforce Base in the USA supporting the flight test programme alongside Boeing and NASA engineers. “The moment of first flight still gives me goosebumps today,” she advised; 14 years later.

 

USE YOUR NATURAL SKILLS WHEREVER YOU CAN

Not only does the X-48 resonate personally for her, but the nature of her involvement also presents a great example of the advice she would give to people at the early stages of their career; and it’s good advice for anyone, not just engineers: “Do what you love and take responsibility.”

Although Alison’s primary role was working on the electronic design for the aircraft and the software development for the ground control station, when it hit the manufacturing stage, in addition to assisting with the build itself, she noticed the need for better control around the kitting of parts and their supply to the production team. Alison’s natural organised nature put her in a perfect position to help so she just did it and made a huge impact on the success of the build.

Throughout her tenure at CAeS, she has applied the same mindset, stepping in to help organise exhibitions for the company’s fighter jet and motorsport simulator seats, including running the simulators at the exhibitions and troubleshooting software issues.

In addition to her current role of Airworthiness Support Engineer, where she writes and collates documentation to support the certification process for aircraft modifications, most recently, she has become involved in Requirements Management, an essential part of the engineering process, especially in novel developments. It requires discipline, rigour and attention to detail as well as an understanding of engineering concepts – attributes that Alison has in spades.

Alison advised: “If you’re logical and have spatial awareness - you can see how things fit together in your mind - the likelihood is you’re made for engineering so find an opening and take it. Don’t worry about having to decide at the start what way you want to go; there are many paths into and within engineering, and you may end up following paths you didn’t know were there.”

Having worked as an electronics and software engineer, production controller, commissioning engineer, exhibitions project manager, airworthiness support engineer and requirements management engineer, Alison is living proof.