Avionics project management for A400M: First Lieutenant Franziska Pinnow

Avionics project management for A400M: First Lieutenant Franziska Pinnow

  • People
  • Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support

First Lieutenant Franziska Pinnow is an aircraft maintenance officer in the avionics project management for the military transport aircraft A400M. She is a product officer at the Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw).

A servicewoman is sitting at a desk and is smiling at the camera

First Lieutenant at her workplace at BAAINBw. From here, the servicewoman organizes the further development and product improvement of electronic and electric A400M components.

Bundeswehr/Grawitter

Her military career started in 2008 as a technician and sergeant, working on the “Tornado” fighter aircraft. After completing her training to become a senior NCONon Commissioned Officer , she qualified as an industrial forewoman for aviation electronics and subsequently successfully completed her training as a state-certified electrical technician. Finally, as an aircraft maintenance officer, she was reassigned and took up her work on the A400M. She was posted to BAAINBw in 2018 and continues working on the transport aircraft as part of the project management team.

Lieutenant Pinnow, could you briefly explain: What does your job as an avionics product officer entail?

Well, the term avionics refers to the entirety of electronic and electrical components in aircraft. These include sensors, computers and displays. My section is responsible for the further development and product improvement of these components for the A400M transport aircraft. My team and I ensure that weaknesses in the system are removed, that product modifications are integrated, and that the avionics systems of the A400M is further adapted to the various requirements profiles of the German Air Force. To this end, we initiate the appropriate procurement processes and take care of the necessary modernization measures for A400M electronics or avionics.

One aircraft on a runway, in the background another aircraft taking off

Everyday flight operations at Niamey Air Transport Base, with several A400M

Bundeswehr/Pinnow

What do you particularly appreciate in your work and your working environment?

Taking part and being present in the overall development process of the A400M is, for me, a comprehensive, exciting and fulfilling work experience. Even though the majority of my tasks involve desk work, I still have the opportunity of gaining experience in A400M flight operations and its service use. For example, that was the case in Bundeswehr missions abroad in Mali, Niger or Jordan. Lessons learned from operations are immediately incorporated into my procurement projects at BAAINBw. From theory to practice and back again, true to the motto:

Procure that which is really needed ...

Your last assignment was to the Niamey Air Transport Base, in the framework of the UNUnited Nations mission MINUSMAUnited Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali. How was your experience, having voluntarily joined a mission abroad as an “admin soldier”?

At first, I was indeed met with skepticism, not only because I was not from that unit, but also because I came from the administrative corner of the Bundeswehr. That meant that I had to tackle prejudice other than the standard one: Not “female in a technological field”, but “admin soldier at the front“. My experience with everyday work in administration, my very different perspective and the network I contributed all led to substantial improvements. Which, in turn, led to my being accepted quickly. Ultimately, the aim is to jointly contribute to the stabilization of a country and to help protect the population against acts of terrorism. And to do that anytime and anywhere – even in bad weather conditions.

Aerial picture of Mali

Picture taken during an overflight: The Niger riverbed in the wet season.

Bundeswehr/Pinnow

You mention bad weather conditions. What do we have to understand by that?

Extreme temperatures of up to +50°C – in December! –, dry air and ever-present dust were my constant companions. The very fine desert sand got through every crack and chink. That is a special challenge, not only for people, but also for aviation technology. I remember that one time when this dark wall of sand and dust approached at a terrific speed. It just buried everything. At first, there was just an orange hue to the air and the surrounding area. And just a little later, everything turned a deep black. It was as dark as in the middle of the night, even though it was noon. Just how helplessly exposed you are to the powers of nature is something you will only understand when you have experienced them for yourself.

A giant gray-brown cloud passing over billeting containers

Gathering sand wall: In a sandstorm, everything and everybody will...

Bundeswehr/Pinnow
The air is full of orange sand and the building is covered in it

... be covered in fine sand within seconds.

Bundeswehr/Pinnow

Sandstorms like that are particularly problematic for air traffic. How do you handle these challenges and how can experience help?

Such sandstorms are always considered during planning before a flight order. Depending on the security situation at the time, alternative flight routes are determined. In this way, the crew is prepared for all contingencies. Too much sand in the air, too much wind and poor visibility mean that you have to turn around immediately and try, at short notice, to approach a safer alternative airport with what is left in the fuel tanks. Then you stay there until the sand wall has passed. Soldiers may well always be prepared for situations as these. But these exceptional weather conditions must always be considered by BAAINBw when preparing technical specifications and procurement contracts for this equipment.

What will you retain on a personal level?

At first, in the mission country, it is often difficult to do without so many everyday things or make do with less. But it all pales in comparison to the way of life of the mission country’s population. The “luxury problems” that troubled you suddenly are no longer an issue, when compared with the problems of the people there. There is one thing I would like to say: The hardships I encountered and the impressions I gained did not only fundamentally change my own personal lifestyle and values, but also those of many fellow servicemen and women. I am much more attentive now to the small things in life and appreciative of the comforts I enjoy in my everyday life at home in Germany. My mission experience helps me, in the A400M project management, to focus on the procurements that are actually important for the user.

by Carina Grawitter

Impressions from operations

Further members of the AIN organizational element

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