Aerospace engineering technicians, also know as aeronautical engineering technicians, work as part of a team on the design, manufacture and testing of new aircraft and components, and carry out repair and maintenance duties on existing fleets. Technicians work on all types of civil and military aircraft, including fixed-wing and rotary, as well as weapons systems and satellites. They usually fall into one of two categories:
Mechanical technicians – carry out the construction, servicing and overhaul of an aircraft's structural, mechanical, hydraulic and pneumatic systems including airframes, wings, engines, landing gear and environmental controls.
Avionics technicians – deal with the installation and testing of electrical and electronic control technologies used for navigation, communications and flight control systems.
Technicians work with a range of engineers, craftspeople and other licenced engineering technicians. Depending on the role, technicians may be involved in:
Design - using computer-aided design (CAD) software to draw up blueprints for new prototypes, or to investigate potential performance enhancements using design modifications.
Research and development – investigating and testing possible solutions to engineering problems caused by a range of factors such as weight, altitude, temperature and engine performance.
Building and testing prototypes - using computer and physical models to predict and refine the performance of aircraft systems.
Repair and maintenance – carrying out routine servicing and repair of aircraft. Line maintenance or aircraft turnaround is done between flights, dealing with pre-flight checks, refuelling and minor tasks. Base maintenance is carried out in the hangar and involves more stringent checks, fault diagnosis and repair. Work is certified as complete by a licenced technician or engineer (see Training section).
Technicians normally work a 37 to 40 hours a week, but this may be longer depending on the project and deadlines.
Work environments range from offices to lab facilities for those involved in research, development and design. Production staff work inside and maintenance technicians can be inside or outside in all weathers. Shiftwork may be required for these roles.
A driving licence may be required, as workplaces tend to be out of town.
To be an aerospace technician, you should:
The UK aerospace industry employs around 300,000 people. There are good opportunities for skilled technicians in avionics and mechanics. Employers include the armed forces, government departments such as the Ministry of Defence, aircraft manufacturers and suppliers, and related bodies, for instance the CAA. Many major airline operators also have their own maintenance divisions, employing technical staff.
Career progression would normally involve moving into supervisory positions. With further training and experience, higher management and project lead roles may become available (see Engineer: Aerospace).
There are opportunities overseas working with foreign aircraft manufacturers, but also with some of the larger UK aerospace companies who have their own overseas maintenance teams.
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