By Laura Cronin 10 Nov 2022 7 min read

Life as a Development Engineer: working towards an emission-free future

We recently spoke with Charifan Osso, a Development Engineer working for H2Fly in Germany. Charifan shared the path that she's taken so far in her career, what her main responsibilities are as a Development Engineer, and her hopes for the future of aviation.


What made you decide to pursue a career in engineering, and in Aerospace specifically?

During my time at school, I noticed that I was very interested in STEM. When I continued to experiment on my own in chemistry lessons in middle school, my teacher approached me and invited me to join the "Youth Research" working group. There I spent my afternoons in the school lab and developed my fascination for STEM. If it hadn't been for my enthusiasm, I would never have started studying engineering.

After graduating high school, I wanted to learn more about nature and technology. I found the opportunity to combine this in my studies as an aerospace engineer. Once I graduated, I wanted to contribute to nature and the environment. So, I looked for an employer who could combine the two and started at H2Fly as a development engineer for sustainable zero-emission powertrain systems for aviation.


Did you have any role models or mentors who helped you early in your career?

Not exactly. My parents migrated with me from Syria to Germany. So, I grew up in two different societies at the same time. I always wanted to find a role model. Someone who was like me, who was torn between the expectations of society and who still managed to find his way. The exciting thing was that you got a different perspective on your possibilities through this circumstance. This enabled me to take advantage of opportunities offered and to go my way without a concrete role model.

Therefore, I would not limit myself to one role model but would name everyone I met by chance, including my friends, teachers, and colleagues. They all gave me good advice at the right moment and shaped my path until now.

Could you describe the path you’ve taken to get to your current role?

After graduating high school, I decided to study aerospace engineering at the University of Stuttgart. Right at the beginning of my studies, I joined the Academic Flying Group. The student group members work voluntarily alongside their studies on developing new aircraft prototypes, which throughout history have always provided new impulses for the aviation industry. There I could transfer my theoretical knowledge from my studies into practise.

I spent hours in the workshop, worked on gliders, and obtained my small aircraft maintenance licence alongside my studies. More than that, we were also trained in flying. I got my glider and touring motor glider licence and learned the exploratory flying. It was a great addition to my studies and awakened my passion for aviation. Thanks to this experience, I gathered extensive knowledge about practical implementation in the workshop through flying experience, and today I use it in my engineering work for new developments.


Could you describe the main responsibilities of your role as a Flight Operation - Development Engineer?

In the Flight Operation Team at H2Fly GmbH, we are on the front line.  All the development work and designs come together here. We integrate the latest fuel cell and hydrogen system technologies into our flying prototype HY4. This includes documentation, verification, and preparations for the permit to fly. The HY4 is a technology demonstrator with which we prove the feasibility of sustainable aviation. The Stuttgart-based company H2Fly is doing pioneering work in the development of emission-free powertrain systems. 

After successfully integrating the new systems and components, the most exciting part begins - the flight test campaign. Over several weeks, we test the new system for its functions and performance through ground and flight tests. We work closely with our test pilots, flight test engineer, and the airport. Of course, safety is always the top priority. 

As a development engineer, I am responsible for the aircraft system and structure of our prototype HY4. Daily tasks include the integration of new components and the verification of all systems before each new test. This makes the work very challenging and exciting.


What aspect of your role do you enjoy the most?

The feeling of success after a completed flight. Because all eyes are on us, and all the work up to the first test flight finally pays off. At H2Fly, we are the only ones worldwide to operate a flying aircraft with hydrogen reliably. That shows the difficulty of this technology. I enjoy it most when we have managed to operate the fuel cell system in the aircraft once again, and it can shape the future of emission-free aviation.

What has been the most challenging part of your career so far?

Aviation is the supreme discipline in engineering. There are many strict requirements, and failures are hardly permitted. The most challenging thing is meeting these requirements daily and giving 100%. Already during my studies, I realised how demanding the profession of an engineer is, and my biggest challenge was to complete my studies. But it is possible with a lot of perseverance and motivation. Ultimately, it can all be learned and is a lot of fun!


Do you have any specific career goals that you are working towards?

Of course! I am only at the beginning of my career and can still learn much more. I want to become an expert in my field, and in the long term, I want to remain faithful to my principles and use my skills and resources to contribute to sustainable aviation. This is especially important to me as a private pilot. Flying should continue to be possible. Therefore, more people should have access to aviation and increase development.


You’ve recently spoken at public events including Aviation 4 Girls in Brussels to help encourage more young people, especially young girls, to consider a career in aviation. Could you tell us a little more about the importance of inspiring the next generation?

The opportunity to take part in this event was significant to me. It is incredible how many children today still don't know what options they could have in aviation. They don't know about the diverse fields of activity, they don't know about the wonderful personal development and especially the fun!

I only found out by chance after graduating from school that I had access to aviation as a migrant in Germany. In Syria, this was not possible due to the restrictions of the government. At the event, many children from all over Europe were present, they could decide which vocation they wanted to follow.

Above all, if we want to continue to use air transport for globalisation, we need a rethink and new technological ideas. It is our responsibility to create awareness and educate the next generations. They will be our future for innovations and technologies and shape the way to emission-free aviation.


What piece(s) of advice would you share with young aspiring engineers who are looking to start their careers in aviation?

Everybody can achieve a career in aviation. All you need is the motivation and perseverance to work in a challenging field. Being an aviation engineer offers unique technological insights into complex aircraft systems. Have the courage to inform yourself about the possibilities and exchange your experiences and there are a lot of events you can participate in. In aviation, we are facing significant challenges and need transformation. Therefore, everyone is invited to start! 


Are you looking for your next career move? Browse the latest job opportunities in aerospace here.