Job description of an Aeronautical engineer
Aeronautical engineering involves the application of specialist scientific knowledge to designing and developing aeroplanes, space shuttles, missiles and other flying machines.
Aeronautical engineers are responsible for the creation of newer, safer and more energy-efficient, economical methods for travel. They work at the forefront of developing technology for everything from aeroplanes and helicopters to missiles, satellites and spacecraft. The work involves meeting the ever-increasing global travel demands by applying engineering principles to design, develop and maintain highly sophisticated technologies for use in aviation, defence systems and space exploration.
They ensure that aircraft, spacecraft and missiles meet safety requirements by creating new and more environmentally friendly designs and manufacturing methods. Aeronautical engineers can specialise in a number of areas including: structural design; flight mechanics and control systems; aerodynamics; instrumentation and communication; and manufacturing and maintenance.
Specific tasks vary according to the role, specialism and employer but typically they could include:
- applying the principles of science and technology to create aircraft, components and support equipment;
- researching and developing design specifications;
- undertaking systematic manufacturing, involving the assembly and modification of components;
- supervising the assembly of airframes and the installation of engines, instruments and other equipment;
- participating in flight test programmes to measure take-off distances, rate of climb, stall speeds, manoeuvrability and landing capacities;
- resolving issues that arise during the design, development and testing processes;
- maintaining aircraft for full operation including making regular inspections, maintenance and servicing;
- measuring and improving the performance of aircraft, components and systems;
- modifying designs to improve safety features or minimise fuel consumption and pollution;
- developing repair procedures as well as working out and managing schedules for repair and maintenance;
- investigating aircraft accidents;
- collating information, interpreting data and publishing the results of specific projects in technical report form;
- using computer-aided design (CAD) software to create designs and plans;
- storing paperwork for approved data (drawings, technical instructions, assessments and calculations);
- working with teams, suppliers, clients and managers to agree budgets, timescales and specifications;
- project managing, including scheduling resources and staff and managing budgets;
- communicating technical and regulatory advice to clients, teams, suppliers and other professionals within the aerospace industry and presenting data to groups and individuals.
- Designing the body of aircraft – including shape testing, manufacturing materials selection, strength and structural modelling.
- Studying and modelling the performance of an aircraft for stability and control, developing automated control systems and testing of aircraft.
- Studying the aerodynamic forces of moving aircraft, examining machine profile for reduction of drag.
- Designing and improving performance of aircraft components and systems.
- Supervising the construction of aircraft in line with safety and design requirements.
Travel: may be required to make site visits to aircraft workshops or hangars during the working day. Overseas travel to conferences and for training maybe necessary or encouraged.
Working hours: mainly 9 to 5, though can involve extra hours depending on project deadlines.
Location: mainly in cities, and especially airport locations.
Opportunities for self-employment: quite limited.
Promotion to senior engineer level is possible and, with more experience, to principal engineer level and beyond.
Entry requirements and training
Specific degree subjects required
Bachelor of engineering in aeronautical engineering.
Skills and qualities
- Sound mathematical and technical skills including physics.
- Ability to think methodically, to design, plan and manage projects.
- Ability to maintain an overview of entire projects while continuing to attend to detailed technicalities.
- Excellent verbal and written communication skills.
- Negotiating, supervisory and leadership skills combined with the ability to delegate.