Interview with the team of Safran Aerotechnics: Christian Thiry, Annagrazia Orazzo, Aurélien Benoit and Bruno Thillays
Question (Q) 1: Within the SENS4ICE project, Safran Aerotechnics is the leader of the work package entitled “Hybrid ice detection architectures”. What are the objectives of this work package? To what extent is it key with regard to the project outcomes?
Answer (A) 1: Current research projects in the icing detection area are addressing the recent regulations evolutions, specifically regarding Appendix O.
The work package “Hybrid ice detection architectures” aims at providing a safe and reliable solution for ice detection, as well as the capability of Appendix C and Appendix O discrimination on an aircraft.
With an innovative architecture based on redundancy and dissimilarity, direct detectors are connected to an indirect detection module to improve detection and to address discrimination.
There four main objectives of this work package:
• Hybrid ice detection system specification;
• Certification programme (generic considerations) for hybrid ice detection system;
• Hybrid ice detection system modelling;
• Hybrid ice detection design, building and assembly. The target TLR will be +TRL5.
As such, the work package “Hybrid ice detection architectures” will provide the demonstrator needed in the SENS4ICE project to validate the system architecture in flight tests.
Q2: Within this work package, Safran is also the leader of the task “Means of compliance for certification”, which was recently achieved. Could you explain what were its objectives?
A2: Thanks to this task, we identified all certification requirements applicable to the Hybrid Ice Detection System (HIDS), both to propose acceptable means of compliance and to anticipate all possible certification challenges that the HIDS might face. The goal of SENS4ICE, as a research project, is to start the development of a new ice detection system that could be certified in the future. It is important to highlight that all existing certification materials address “probe-like” ice detectors, which only involve direct detection. This is the reason why some of the certification issues identified so far within SENS4ICE are intrinsically linked to the hybrid technology, i.e. to indirect ice detection. From the work on this topic emerged the need of new guidelines for the certification of such a hybrid detection system.
Q3: Would you say that the work achieved on the certification programme for the Hybrid Ice Detection System (HIDS) is in line with the expectations? Have you encountered any specific challenges?
A3: What we have achieved within this task is a good starting point to address the HIDS certification aspects. Even if the task is officially closed, additional discussions are envisaged, i.e. with the help of the certification agencies involved in the project i.e. European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Brazil National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC). We wish to analyse the identified certification issues in more detail and to propose possible solutions. Moreover, we have to consider that a certification programme is a living document which should be updated in any phase of the HIDS development as new issues are detected.
Of course, this task has been achieved thanks to a collaborative work. We would like to use this interview to thank all SENS4ICE project partners involved: AeroTex, Leonardo, DLR, ATR and Embraer, as each partner provided an important contribution despite the challenges of such an ambitious work.
Q4: To achieve this task, SENS4ICE could count on the support of certification agencies as members of the project Advisory Board. How do you evaluate their involvement and what are the implications of it?
A4: Having the support of certification agencies was crucial. Through several dedicated meetings, they supported us to focus on critical aspects and provided key suggestions to improve our work. SENS4ICE is greatly thankful towards all certification agencies for their help. As previously mentioned, the certification programme document is not finalised yet; future exchanges could be needed with the certification agencies, even outside the scope of the SENS4ICE project, to discuss the need of new certification materials for indirect and hybrid ice detection.
Q5: What are the main next steps towards the implementation of the Hybrid Ice Detection System?
A5: After setting the requirements for the flight test demonstration, we proposed an architecture for the HIDS implementation with a flexible prototyping approach. Using a system engineering analysis, we are developing a model-based design which is portable directly to a hardware platform.
Interfaces definition is also a major planned step, as the HIDS interconnnects aircraft and direct sensors. Finally, modelisation work is foreseen to validate the system before the flight tests and to exploit the data recorded after the flight tests to improve the HIDS design.
Q6: The COVID-19 crisis is having severe impacts in many fields of the economy worldwide, in particular in the aviation sector. What were the consequences of this crisis on Safran, in particular with regard to your involvement in the SENS4ICE project?
A6: Indeed Safran had to adapt to the Covid-19 constraints. Nevertheless, we keep in touch with the project management team and with all project partners through regular web-conference meetings. Despite a 2-month lock-down in France, Safran management provided a strong support to the R&T team by preserving its activity.
The SENS4ICE project coordinator was also very helpful. As such, the sanitary crisis had a less strong impact on the HIDS development as opposed to other SENS4ICE activities, e.g. the Icing Wind Tunnel Tests or Flight Tests, which are more complex.
Q7: SENS4ICE consortium gathers many different European and international partners, including research centers, academics and industrials. How do you evaluate the cooperation between all these oganisations, and more specifically between industrial players, some of which are competitors outside the SENS4ICE consortium?
A7: Within SENS4ICE consortium, all partners are committed to the work in a positive and collaborative spirit, as each partner brings in the necessary data for installation, interfacing and performance assessment of the icing sensors connected to the HIDS. Moreover, SENS4ICE is governed by commonly agreed legal rules regarding Intellectual Property issues, which ensures safe cooperation among all.
Q8: Safran is SENS4ICE Exploitation Manager, which means that you are responsible for generating the catalogue of SENS4ICE results, preparing exploitation roadmaps with the other partners and monitoring certification aspects. Why would you say that Safran is particularly suited for this role? How will the industrial partners such as Safran use the project results?
A8: Within SENS4ICE, Safran is responsible for the HIDS and the recipient of all different project technical results. Moreover, Safaran is an experienced aeronautical equipment and systems provider, and therefore it has the necessary competencies to assess the value of different contributions. As such, Safran is well positioned to gather all SENS4ICE technical contributions and assess them.
As the exploitation of SENS4ICE project results is clearly foreseen for a commercial application towards safer aircraft, Safran is constantly committed to migrate research outputs to industrial solutions.
Q9: Annagrazia, it is a matter of fact that women are underrepresented in the field of aviation engineering. Based on your experience and career, which led you to work in several countries until your current role as Icing Expert at Safran, what could help to progress towards a more gender-balanced occupation in this field?
A9: Thanks for this very interesting question! Even if aeronautics is not a “all men universe” anymore, it is true that the road to gender-balance is still long. Although the trend has improved thanks to new HR policies deployed within the biggest aviation industries for supporting and attracting women, we are still far from having achieved gender parity and equal opportunities.
When I started my studies in Aeronautical Engineering at the Polytechnic School of Naples “Federico II”, there were almost 200 fresh-men that year and among them only 30 female students. Let’s try to find an answer to this question: “Why are young girls not intersted in this kind of carreer?” One key factor is the still present cultural heritage according to which young girls play with dolls, young boys with cars! In my opinion, too often young girls are not encouranged at all to follow such a technical career or, worse, they don’t get informed enough on what an aeronautical engineer is. A wider cultural change that starts from the education system is needed. Moreover, also social inputs are important: if a young girl sees a woman in aviation with a successful career, she may be more inclined to consider this “non-traditional” role as something good for her as well.
Anyway, as we know from history, change takes time, and in this case, we need time to change both men’s and women’s minds. As men are currently predominant in senior positions, their support is key in this process but, on the other side, women have to improve their self-awareness, because we can do whatever we want, if we really want it!
The information, statements and opinions in the above interview are personal views of the individuals involved in the SENS4ICE project and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SENS4ICE consortium as a whole, nor of the European Commission. None of them shall be liable for any use that may be made of the information contained herein.