Job Series #12 Environmental Engineer at Gerac
Avoiding aircraft threats such as lightning and electromagnetic fields : within the Gerac company in Blagnac, Aude Bardaud is at the service of Airbus and system builders.
She was rather shy – she still is, but passionate about physics, and she is the daughter and granddaughter of engineers, so it is quite obvious that Aude Bardaud was formed at 20 in an engineering school, after a scientific baccalaureate and a deug in science of matter at the University Paul Sabatier of Toulouse.
She really likes planes but did not necessarily think about working in aeronautics, even if living in a small town such as Blagnac, the headquarters of Airbus, has always made her rub shoulders with the giants of that industry.
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To finish her school (INSA Toulouse), she carried out a six-month internship in 2006 at Gerac, a subsidiary of Thales specialized in compatibility and electromagnetic interference and in the protection of aircraft against lightning. An internship that gave her the opportunity to be hired : for over 10 years, Aude Bardaud has worked at Gerac as an environmental engineer for Airbus. Her core business is the study of electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) and since 2015, the mechanical and climatic environment, which concern the systems of an aircraft.
“The CEM is seen as black magic”, smiles the 34-year-old, “we do not see the phenomenon, when it can plant a system!”. The most common threats are the electromagnetic fields of the radars and satellites that radiate on the aircraft and that can create spurious effects on the aircraft’s electronic systems (including flight controls) and of course, the lightning that strikes the plane.
A job of technical criticism and a dose of relational
What a typical day of this engineer mom of a little boy looks like ? From 8 o’clock to 6 o’clock, she works entirely in support. “We are contacted by an Airbus department that seeks clarification on a certain requirement, who must write a contract or specification, or that transmits the problem of a supplier … We must therefore explain, validate the documents that deal with this area , check that the supplier has correctly applied the tests on a certain system, etc. In short : to carry out the technical criticism, to be the supervisor of Airbus in terms of electromagnetic compatibility and mechanical and climatic environment.
A clerical job, but also a job of contact, as Aude Bardaud explains. “I implement this technical expertise every day, and I often meet the supplier companies and the Airbus system managers. It’s a job of contact. We never work alone. » What are the essential qualities you need to be an engineer of environmental studies? Without hesitating, “have a lot of rigor and thoroughness”, because we can not bear with mistakes, since they may involve the safety of the aircraft in flight.
But being a specialist does not exclude moments of emotion. The young woman remembers moments during her professional life : the first flight of the Airbus military plane, the A400m, in Seville, broadcasted on the big screen at Airbus where she had left. Just like the first flight of the Airbus A350, but that time ‘live’ on the tarmac of Airbus near Gerac … Aude Bardaud remembers : “In terms of electromagnetic compatibility, the work on the A400M was more complex because it’s a military plane. The A350 has also given us a hard time because it is an aircraft that is largely composed of composite materials. The composite adds an additional stake, because the impact of lightning on this type of material has consequences more important on the aircraft systems than on metal. ”
After the A400M and the A350, the Gerac engineer is now a technical support on all the different Airbus aircrafts. She even worked on ATR turboprops. Today, there are no more new aircraft programs, but the systems continue to be modified, modernized, equipped with new options, such as wifi systems in the cabin. The obsolescence of electronic components for example forces suppliers to change them : each time, it is necessary for the latter to demonstrate it, which will be validated by Gerac. “We are the anti-parasite”, smiles Aude Bardaud.
The small sphere of CEM.
With a net salary of 2,500 to 3,000 euros per month, this profession allows to enter a “small world”, the world of electromagnetic specialists in companies of the aerospace industry. “Everyone knows each other,” says our Toulouse engineer. What about the professional evolution? With a technical scope recently extended to the mechanical and climatic scope, Aude Bardaud extends his vision and it pleases him. “I have no ambition in management. My evolution within Gerac will be more technical. And the most important, “continue to love what I do”.
Is being a woman in a predominantly male sector a problem? For the young woman, not at all. On the contrary, she actually adds : “Our society is not feminized,” she admits. She is accustomed to it for a while now (since her scientific studies). On customers’ side, it’s the same thing. But I like working with men. Sometimes we are even a little pampered ! “. She also appreciates the size of her SME of 80 employees, which allows employees to know each other well, to experience a certain closeness with their hierarchy.
She only has one regret : not being integrated enough into the Thales group, of which Gerac is one of the subsidiaries. “We would like to benefit from the advantages and strengths of the group …” says the engineer, before leaving for her office, as a magician who holds a little mysterious knowledge thanks to which our planes protect themselves from celestial lightning and electromagnetic fields.
Education : Deug in sciences of matter at the University Paul Sabatier of Toulouse, then INSA Toulouse in physical engineering.
Entry to Gerac : 2006.