Safran Engineering Services USA: Employee Spotlight

Charla Keiser, Test Engineering Specialist, Safran Engineering Services

As a leading technology company with 7,000 employees in the United States, Safran is committed to providing unique opportunities for career-long development and internal mobility. In this month's Employee Spotlight, we share the story of Charla Keiser, a communications expert whose career quickly took off within Safran Electrical & Power and landed her in the sky.

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"I think the most unique aspect about my career with Safran is the opportunities I've had to try new things, work on new projects. It's not often a company would take a trainer on as a technical writer for a project!" - Charla Keiser

Who: Charla Keiser is a Test Engineering Specialist in the Engineering, Certification, and Safety Office of Safran Engineering Services, a subsidiary of Safran Electrical & Power. Based in Everett, Washington, Charla also is a Safran+ Green Belt and is currently working on the conclusion of an improvement project for a process within the Boeing 787 program activities. Charla holds a degree in Communication with a minor in Aviation Safety from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and a private pilot's license.

When: Charla has always enjoyed writing but once she started flight training as a teenager, she looked for a way to combine both interests and thought, "Writing about airplanes! That's what I want to do." After working in technical publications at Alaska Airlines, Charla joined Safran Electrical & Power in 2009 as a training specialist in charge of creating and presenting training to the engineer team.  Three years later, she was offered the opportunity to put her experience in maintenance and flight manuals into practice as technical writer for Safran Engineering Services.  "My title has changed a few times, but since then I've been writing flight manual supplements, maintenance manual supplements, and ground and flight test procedures."

What: The Engineering, Certification, and Safety Office works on projects that modify aircraft. "For example, one of our projects adds a satellite communications system that provides Wi-Fi internet access to the passengers of a helicopter. Our team creates the engineering solution and then works with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to show that the system and helicopter is safe and meets the necessary regulations. When the project is finished the FAA issues a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC)."

Test Engineering Specialist Charla Keiser (at center) is shown with two colleagues

Charla's job involves writing or reviewing test plans necessary to show that the new system, and the helicopter itself, are working correctly.  In her role, Charla interacts with engineering teams, the FAA and its representatives, and in some cases equipment manufacturers, technicians and pilots.

Highlights of the job: After a helicopter is modified with the new equipment, Charla goes to the installation site to facilitate the testing. She then collects the results from the ground and flight tests and writes the reports. One of the most exciting parts of Charla's job is going on test flights. "After all these years I still get excited about the opportunity to see these aircraft up close. I can't believe I get to do it!"

Memorable moment: The first project Charla worked on involved testing a warning system – which turned out to be a thrilling experience. "We did things like fly toward mountains and radio towers, or descend much faster than usual, or hover in a particular configuration, until we saw and heard the warnings. It's a very exciting system to test! Everyone asked me afterwards if I was scared, but the pilots were so incredibly good that it didn't really seem like anything out of the ordinary."

Challenges:  As with every role, Charla's comes with its challenges. "There are always engineering changes throughout these projects that can influence the documentation I create. Sometimes it feels like trying to hit a moving target. But the harder part is doing that during the very limited amount of time we have with the aircraft to perform the testing activities."

Keys to a successful career: For Charla, the three keys to a successful career are adaptability, curiosity and teamwork. "Taking on challenging tasks that would otherwise be unusual for my position has led me to new and exciting opportunities, like participating in flight tests.  Asking questions is what leads to good procedures and troubleshooting solutions.  A successful project requires a lot of different disciplines working together." 

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