Editor: Jesse van Leeuwen

Interviewees: Rehan Siddiqui, Thomas Sandbergen


In project Phoenix, safety is of utmost importance. As we are working on an experimental aircraft, we face many unknowns. Whereas certification takes the perspective of potential design and manufacturing flaws of the aircraft’s systems, the safety manager focuses on minimizing risk for the people that are involved in testing and operating the systems. Together, they identify and address all threats to man and machine, making sure that our maiden flight will be safe and sound. Below, you will read about the experiences of both departments!


Tell us about your departments!


Rehan: My name is Rehan Siddiqui and I’m the Certification Engineer for the Prototype project Phoenix. I’m currently the only person in this department but I’m a full-time member, so I have plenty to do. The Certification Department makes sure that the project follows all airworthiness requirements and regulations to ensure we have a safe, legal and successful flight (testing) campaign. This includes preparing a lot of technical documents for the authorities and having an overview of all the system testing. When writing documentation, I mostly work from the Innovation Hub at the Aerospace faculty or home, but for testing, it’s wherever the test takes place. This can be our workshop at Rotterdam airport, the NLR’s drone testing centre in Flevoland, or other airfields for other tests.


Thomas: My name is Thomas Sandbergen and I am AeroDelft’s Safety Manager. As a safety manager, it is my task to check the safety of both the Phoenix Full-scale and the Phoenix Prototype projects. This is mostly being done by discussing our design and test plans with the different departments. Nearly all of this work is done from home. Only the actual testing needs to take place at different external partners. Because working from home can be a bit exhausting, it is always beneficial to work 1-2 days from our office at the Innovation Hub. 


What do you like most about your department?


Rehan: I really like that I get to work closely with all the engineering departments. To write extensive documentation about our systems and be involved in testing requires a good affinity with the overall design. While I don’t have as in-depth insight into the more specific elements of each department’s design, I think it’s really nice to have a general overview of the project. It’s also really nice to be able to work really closely with a lot of our important technical partners to ensure we have a safe and airworthy design.


Thomas: The most exciting activity is being able to meet and discuss important topics with all of our different team members. As a safety manager, you can convert a lot of knowledge from one department to the other. By communicating with all departments in a general manner, you will spread a lot of knowledge about the project.


What have been the biggest obstacles that your department has faced so far? 


Rehan: Currently, the EU is in a transition year, going from old drone regulations to standardised rules. While the aim is to harmonise drone regulations throughout the EU through EASA’s jurisdiction instead of leaving it to individual member states’ national authorities, this has led to a lot of confusion while the new rules are still being decided. We work closely with the NLR and the ILT (national authority) to resolve and work around these issues and minimise any delay, but ultimately it depends on the government’s implementation. For this, we’re also in contact with the Ministry of Infrastructure & Water Management to try and sort out the implementation of the new rules, which is pretty exciting!


Thomas: In general the biggest obstacles are situations when there are problems where we lack a bit of knowledge. For instance, this takes place when we are not certain about the risk itself. A good solution you might use is taking your time to gather information. Often our partners face the same problem as we do, so working together with these partners is always a good idea.


What are you most looking forward to?


Rehan: Definitely for the first test flight and the success of the entire flight test campaign! All the preparations, documentation, testing, and arrangements lead up to proving that our project is actually airworthy through flight testing. Seeing the first successful flight test take place would be a great achievement for all departments of course, and for Certification ensuring it can take place successfully would be the culmination of all the department’s work since the project’s commencement. Seeing the end of each (flight) testing campaign would mean all the preparations we’ve been busy with were a success.


Thomas: Having a safe and successful test is always what a safety manager should be looking forward to. Being able to test the systems and requirements without facing some majors risk is something the whole team should strive for. All these tests may seem small, but ultimately they will help us progress towards the first successful test flight.


Regarding your department, what are you most proud of?


Rehan: I’m really proud of being part of the project that is innovating and pushing towards a sustainable future for aviation. If we can meet our project goal of proving and promoting (liquid ) hydrogen as a viable alternative to conventional fuels, I think it will be a pivotal moment for the industry. We’re already seeing it in projects like the Airbus Zero-E and others. Specifically to Certification, I’m proud of the extensive failure analysis that was made together with the different engineering departments as a thorough overview to mitigate as many health and project risks as possible.


Thomas: Working towards a more sustainable future with a small multidisciplinary team should be something we should be all proud of. Being able to bring a lot of students with different nationalities and study together for the same goal is a challenge. Luckily we are able to make progress in both the Full-scale and Prototype according to their planning.