Fueling the future of aviation

As a Fuel Cell System Engineer in Hamburg, Natalia Medina Cabello brings her interest in renewable energy to life through her work on the ZEROe hydrogen-powered concept aircraft. Here she gives us an inside look at her responsibilities on the project and how she came to join the team. 


What attracted you to the ZEROe team and what is your role on the ZEROe project?

I have always been very interested in renewable energy development, so I jumped at the chance to join the ZEROe team and participate in the design of a hydrogen-powered aircraft. The fuel cell system of the ZEROe demonstrator is used to provide electric power to the turboprop engines and other systems in the demonstrator’s pods. As an order of magnitude, we needed to obtain power in the megawatt range, and I’m happy to report that we reached 1.2MW during the on-ground test bench earlier this year.

The DC voltage levels generated by the fuel cell system are higher than any legacy projects. This means that we have to create a new approach and a comprehensive set of safety, power quality and performance requirements. I work in close coordination with suppliers to implement these. While my area of expertise is in the electrical field, I also assist my colleagues on the practical problem-solving multi-functional team to respond to these challenges.

Some of my best experiences at Airbus were the international ZEROe workshops and events. There was amazing energy in the air, and a real collaborative spirit. 

Did you always want to work in aerospace?

Actually, no! I had never considered it before I came to Toulouse to finalise my Master’s degree in industrial engineering. My specialisation was in new energies technology, and for my final project I worked as a subcontractor for Airbus. It was such an interesting and positive experience that I decided to continue to work in aerospace. So I became a subcontractor for Airbus in Hamburg, from 2016 to 2018, before being hired for my current role on the ZEROe team in October 2022.

What do you enjoy most about your job? And about working at Airbus in general?

I really enjoy problem solving and developing solutions for the technical challenges we face. I also appreciate the multicultural composition of the team and the fact that I get to speak several languages every day. In general, I think that Airbus has a lot of really great benefits. There are many personal development possibilities, great working conditions and an international work environment with a lot of opportunities for internal mobility. 

What advice would you give to young people interested in going into aerospace?

There’s a quote by John C. Maxwell that I think is very pertinent: “The secret of your success is determined by your daily agenda.” The sum of your daily small efforts is what makes all the difference.

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