Anne Lillywhite developed a passion for technology from a young age, so a career in engineering beckoned. After a spell in telecommunications, she moved into aviation, and is now director of engineering for Honeywell's European aerospace engineering division, specialising in cockpit and navigation systems.
What sparked your interest in aviation?
In 2008, I decided to make a change and shift from telecommunications to another industry. As I was living in Toulouse, I could feel this passion around aviation and I took this opportunity to stretch my engineering experience in a new way. Growing up, I always had a passion for finding out how technology works. This drew me to engineering, and eventually to aviation, so I could continue to push myself and see what new things I could learn in a new sector.
Tell us about your career to date
I’ve always been interested in engineering, so naturally I studied electronic engineering at the National Institute of Applied Sciences (INSA) in Lyon. After graduation, I went into telecommunications and worked for more than 10 years in engineering and programme management, before I decided it was time for a change. I went into aerospace in 2008 in a programme manager role at Rockwell Collins, where I worked across sales, strategy and programmes. In 2016, I moved to Honeywell Aerospace's Prague base, in engineering, where I have the chance to manage a team of more than 300 engineers, working in cockpit systems, navigation and sensors, across the Czech Republic, France, Germany and the UK.
What have been the highlights of your career?
I’ve been lucky enough to have a number of highlights, the best this year being when the Comac test pilots used Honeywell’s HonFei fly-by-wire flight control system to fly and navigate the first C919 test flight. Our Czech team is taking part in the development of the flight control system and had been working on it for several years. To see it in action was a moment to remember and a great achievement for the team.
Tell us about your current role
There are three key elements to my role. As a director, I work closely with other departments to ensure my team has everything they need to meet our goals. Alongside this, I coach and mentor the team to ensure we’re working in the right direction. I really enjoy working with different engineers within the group, and I'm always learning new things with them and from them. Finally, I work closely with our customers to ensure they're satisfied with the services and products Honeywell provides.
How has cockpit technology evolved over the years?
Simply looking at an aircraft cockpit 20 years ago and looking at one now – it's so easy to see the change as we've shifted from knobs and buttons to software and screens. As cockpit engineers, our goal is to help make flying safer, more efficient and comfortable for pilots and passengers. There are cockpit systems available to help pilots plan the journey in advance, such as flight management systems, Primus Epic, which assists pilots and flightcrew to make decisions on navigation and landing using real-time data. Today, technology advances very quickly and we change along with it. We’re constantly learning and this will help us develop cockpit systems that help pilots be more efficient and safe.
What changes can we expect in cockpits over the next 10 years?
The aviation industry is ever changing and there is a clear shift toward software and data-driven solutions that help ensure flightcrew, maintainers and operators are better informed, leading to safer flights. Honeywell is developing technologies to work alongside the cockpit to make it easier for pilots to complete large and small tasks.
What do you enjoy the most and least about your job?
There are many things I enjoy about my role: Honeywell is the most international company I've been a part of. It's truly global, with people from a variety of different backgrounds. The diversity at Honeywell allows you to learn about aviation, and as an engineer, I'm learning new things from team members. As an industry, aviation can seem slow moving because of regulation, but aviation technology is some of the most innovative and oftentimes unseen technology I've worked with. This perception of aviation is changing, and as a global brand, Honeywell is fuelling a shift in the aviation industry into the digital age.