Mechanics, Avionics, Propulsion: Meet the Design & Development Team

By: Maxine Sheppard

February 6, 2015

Design and Development Engineer Neil Ambridge

If you’re looking to make the most of your technical know-how and your aviation experience, there can be few better places to develop your career than Virgin Atlantic, so why not go for it?

An established, forward-thinking brand, we pride ourselves on standing out from our competitors – in terms of our culture, in terms of our product offering to our customers, but also in terms of the opportunities and training we offer to our people.

Given the highly competitive nature of the industry in which we operate, the customer experience – from cost to comfort – is always front of mind at Virgin Atlantic. With this in mind, we’ve recently established a new Fleet Support team. Its job? To maintain the highest standards of safety, reliability and operational performance for which Virgin Atlantic is renowned, while ensuring each and every flight is as pleasurable, comfortable and cost effective as possible.

With 10 years’ service under his belt Neil Ambridge is one of the airline’s experienced engineers:

“This is a new team that we’ve set up – and it plays a key role. Essentially, each of our technical groups focuses on a specific discipline – be that Mechanical, Structures, Avionics, Propulsion, Programmes and Reliability. Our Fleet Support sits at the heart of our technical management teams; co-ordinating work and smoothing peaks in workload so we can operate as efficiently as possible. The people that work here get involved in everything from one-off tasks to large projects. This means they get an unrivalled breadth of exposure as they get to touch on so many different areas – from avionics to propulsions and beyond.”

“A recent example of this was a project that looked at removing calcium from toilet waste lines on aircraft. These calcium deposits make the aircraft heavier – and a heavier aircraft equals greater fuel consumption. It may sound like a simple thing but, potentially, getting this right could save the airline hundreds of thousands of pounds.”

“It’s the same story with aerodynamics. It’s important for flight controls (parts of the aircraft that control the direction of an aircraft) to remain optimally adjusted to reduce fuel burn. Fine tuning of the flight control surface positions reduces aerodynamic drag (air resistance) and in turn fuel burn. Our teams get involved in mitigating these and other factors and, in so doing, minimise fuel burn that impacts on the airline’s bottom line and supports our environmental responsibilities. It’s really satisfying.”

Recent joiners Sam Hamdan and Martin Stokes come from different backgrounds but have in common the technical capabilities and skills necessary to forge a successful career within the airline.

“In this role”, says Martin, “you have to be really focused and organised. Analytical skills are key – and because you have to deal with such a wide variety of people, you have to be an excellent communicator too. It’s a mixture of this exposure, range of technical and commercial tasks/projects and the Virgin brand that really drew me to working here.”

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Neil with recent recruits Sam Hamdan and Martin Stokes

For budding engineers, Neil is keen to highlight the many career paths that are open within the business. “Your skills are extremely valuable – and transferable. As you progress you get to take on a great degree of responsibility. Making judgement calls is a big responsibility but it’s also a buzz. However, if you decide you want to take a different route, I’ve known people who start in engineering go on to roles in Supply Chain Management, Flight Operations, Commercial. That’s the thing about working here. All doors are open and you’re equipped to go wherever you want.”

Find out more about our engineering and technical opportunities or visit our careers site to read more about life at Virgin Atlantic.


Maxine Sheppard

Maxine is the co-editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.