Alumni Career Spotlight: Gonzalo Canseco

Gonzalo during the delivery of the 1st Boeing 787 to launch customer ANA.

Gonzalo during the delivery of the 1st Boeing 787 to launch customer ANA.

Gonzalo Canseco graduated from the Daytona Beach campus, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in May of 2006 and holds multiple degrees, which include Aerospace Engineering, Aeronautical Science, and Applied Meteorology. And yes, there is a story for all the degrees, but you’ll have to contact Gonzalo if you want to know the details.

During his time at Embry-Riddle, Gonzalo did two internships, first with LAB Airlines as an aircraft dispatcher for Boeing 727/737 and Airbus A300 aircraft and later as a Certification Engineer with Kosola & Associates working multiple Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) projects on commercial aircraft (B727, B737, B747), helicopters (Sikorsky S-92, Eurocopter EC135), and structural testing.

In June of 2006, Gonzalo joined Labinal/Safran Engineering Services as a Requirements Validation and Verification Engineer and was later promoted to his current position as a Certification Engineer in 2007. In November of 2011, Gonzalo was given the delegation of Authorized Representative (AR) by the Boeing Regulatory Administration on behalf of the FAA (Designated Engineering Representative – DER delegation).  This delegation allows Gonzalo to approve engineering designs that show compliance with the airworthiness regulations. During his time at Labinal, Gonzalo has supported and helped achieve critical B787 milestones, including engineering requirements verification, type certification with the FAA and EASA regulatory agencies, and multiple customer introduction certifications. Gonzalo continues to be involved with his role as an AR in the B787 program for customer introductions and the new 787-9 model. In the Safran Engineering Services division, Gonzalo has also supported STC programs such as an avionics upgrade with Heli-One for the Los Angeles Sheriff Department on Eurocopter Super Puma rotorcrafts and most recently a military modernization of Eurocopter rotorcrafts for the Brazilian Army.

Gonzalo holds an FAA Commercial Pilot Certificate with Single Engine, Multi Engine, and Instrument ratings and an FAA Aircraft Dispatcher License. He currently resides in Everett, WA together with his wife Darcy and their two dogs.

Tell us about your position with Labinal/Safran Engineering Services.  How did you get this opportunity? 

Labinal came to Embry-Riddle to interview for design engineer positions, and when I interviewed with them, the recruiter noticed my previous experience working in certification with a DER (internship with Kosola); plus I had also expressed my interest and goal to one day become a DER myself. A week later when decisions were being made, I was asked to do an additional interview with the Director of Certification since they had an opening for a requirements engineer, and when asked if that was a career path that I would be interested in instead of design engineering, I had no hesitation in saying yes!

Seven years later, my career has progressed much quicker than I ever expected. As a certification engineer, I get involved in all aspects of design projects, from the early planning phases when the certification plan and agreements are reached with the regulatory agencies all the way to design reviews and aircraft inspections to ensure that the final product meets the applicable airworthiness regulations.

Gonzalo and his wife Darcy during the delivery of the 1st Boeing 787 to launch customer ANA.

Gonzalo and his wife Darcy during the delivery of the 1st Boeing 787 to launch customer ANA.

What is one of the most interesting/exciting parts of your position?

This position allows me to work on several different projects at a time, from the Large Transport Category and modern Boeing 787 to small rotorcraft modifications and upgrades in both the civilian and military worlds.

There is always something exciting going on with this position, but the one that I enjoy the most and which brings the most satisfaction is being part of the review and inspections process to ensure that our designs comply with the airworthiness regulations. For this activity we perform design reviews of all the 3D models, 2D drawings, and process documents and in most cases are also required to do on-airplane inspections before it can be certified and delivered to the customers. As an AR, I also have the responsibility to sign the required FAA forms stating that our design is in compliance.

At the end of the day, I see our job as making sure the final product is safe for the airlines and passengers. We take this job very seriously and also take pride in it.

What attributes and accomplishments do you feel led to your success as a Certification Engineer at Safran Engineering Services?

There are many things I learned during my time at Embry-Riddle that have helped me progress in my career that it would take a lot to write them all, but I think these are some of the more important ones:

1. There’s a lot more than just studying and memorizing things in college:

  • Learn how to work with diverse groups; you will be doing that for the rest of your life in the engineering world. I had the opportunity to get a lot of experience in this area by working as a Resident Advisor and Resident Director in the housing department as well as with our Preliminary Design and Senior Design projects.
  • Get involved in campus organizations; get a part-time job; get internship experience. They will all make you a well-rounded individual and better candidate for most companies. I can honestly say that without the internship I did while at Embry-Riddle I would not be where I am today.

2. However, don’t forget the studying part:

  • Not every single thing you learn in school will be used in each individual career, but it will make you an overall well-rounded engineer who can have educated conversations on any technical topic with other senior engineers, technical managers, etc. This will make you stand out among your peers and help you advance in your career. I was able to experience this first hand when I got selected as an AR candidate and had to interact with several mentors and advisors all of whom had different backgrounds (mechanical engineering, systems engineering, etc.).
  • If you want to be a good aerospace engineer, get some actual flying experience (i.e. take a private pilot’s ground school, some Aeronautical Science classes, or even better get your license). Something I see a lot is people that know all the engineering models and techniques but have no clear understanding of what it really means to be at the command of an aircraft, what it feels to be in the shoes of the pilot, and that can limit your capabilities to contribute as an engineer. In my case having a pilot’s license allowed me to become a more valuable employee and has come very useful when trying to explain the effects that some designs and failures can have on the aircraft and on the pilots.

What advice do you have for current students to help them succeed post-graduation, based on your experiences?

  • Learn to be patient; most design projects in our industry can last several years, and they don’t get done in one semester like they used to in college. Also, when dealing with promotions, if you become anxious in a couple of  years when you are not seeing progress in your current job and decide to move to another company, you probably have to start all over again, when waiting an extra year could have made the difference at your existing job.
  • Take challenges at work; everyone does their normal 8 to 5, but to stand out you have to be willing to take challenges. That project that your boss wants as an improvement and no one else is willing to take may be the one that gets you recognized and on a better career path. Also, taking challenges will force you to learn new things and become a more valuable employee.
  • Always have a positive attitude. Yes, I can guarantee you that there will be stressful days at work, tough co-workers to deal with, deadlines to meet, and many other things that will make you forget why you even got into this job. But becoming bitter will not solve anything. Instead remain positive and look for ways to improve the design, improve the process, improve the work relationships, or improve the schedules. There is always room for improvement, and as an engineer, that’s one thing you should always remember.
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