Aerospace engineers work on the research and development, design, testing and manufacture of aircraft (fixed-wing and rotary), space vehicles, surface/ground effect vehicles (very low flying craft), missile technologies, flight simulators, and related components and control systems; they also plan and oversee maintenance programmes. Engineers are employed on commercial, military, national and international projects and often specialise in a particular aspect of the work:
Research – working in a research environment, carrying out feasibility studies for new developments or innovations, including structural components - wings, fuselage, rib assemblies, fuel tanks and engines; avionic systems – navigation and communications equipment and controls; and software development.
Design - using computer-aided design (CAD) software to turn research ideas into technical plans and specifications for new craft, components and system prototypes.
Testing - putting prototypes through ground or flight testing programmes; collecting and analysing test data using computer models; modifying prototypes and re-testing - this process can go through several stages before a product is ready for manufacture.
Production - designing new production processes or refining existing ones; planning and supervising the assembly and installation of craft and components in line with design specifications and timetables.
Maintenance - scheduling and supervising line (airport) and base (hangar) maintenance of aircraft; managing teams of technicians and ensuring completed work is signed off under strict licencing regulations (see Aerospace Engineering Technician).More generic duties include:
Fully qualified professional engineers usually hold incorporated or chartered status. See Training section for details.
Aerospace engineers work 37 to 40 hours a week, but longer hours may be necessary, depending on the project and deadlines.
Work environments range from modern, open-plan offices to aircraft factory production areas.
Travel may be involved to inspect or test aircraft on site, so a driving licence is useful.
To be an aerospace engineer you need:
In addition, European language skills may be an advantage, particularly if working on a transnational project.
The UK aerospace industry employs around 300,000 people and there are good opportunities for skilled engineers in aircraft and component manufacture, research and development, and space, satellite and weapons systems.
Employers include the armed forces, government departments, and aircraft manufacturers and suppliers. Many major airline operators also have their own maintenance divisions, employing engineering staff.
Opportunities are available overseas for experienced engineers in Europe and the United States.
Promotion would normally be to project manager or consultant engineer.
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