What Aerospace engineers do

Aerospace engineers work in Design Offices

Imagine the future. What do you see? Space travel to mars? Asteroid mining? Flying taxis? Drones that deliver right to your door? Aerospace engineers have the power to make this a reality.

Aerospace engineers invent, research, design, test, maintain and construct flight vehicles including aircraft, spacecraft, helicopters, satellites, drones and rockets. They are concerned with improving flight safety, fuel efficiency, vehicle speed and weight and the environmental impact of air travel.

Types of aerospace engineer:

Aerospace engineers can specialise in specific areas such as materials and structures, aerodynamics, avionics, navigation and control, propulsion or production methods.

Where aerospace engineers work:

Aerospace engineers work in Design Offices

In a design office, aerospace engineers work together to provide a client with a proposal that addresses the specific aircraft needs but also meets regulatory and other requirements.

An aerospace engineer in a design office provides the following services:

  • Draw up hard and soft specifications for the aircraft/spacecraft design.
  • Design aircraft/spacecraft parts and support equipment.
  • Perform analytical calculations/prepare CAD/CAM drawings.
  • Ensure that design specifications and regulatory requirements are met.
  • Design modifications to systems (like the fuel or environmental control system) and outline appropriate installation procedures.
  • Conduct tests to measure the performance of an aircraft or part, to meet regulatory/airworthiness requirements.
  • Evaluate new and used aircraft and advise potential purchasers.

Much of the design work done by aerospace engineers uses drawing software like CAD/CAM (e.g., CATIA) or analysis software (like NASTRAND for finite element or ANSYS or FLUENT for computational fluid dynamics).

Aerospace engineers work in Aircraft Manufacture/Testing/Repair/Maintenance offices

Aerospace engineers work in offices that specialise in the manufacture, testing, repair and maintenance of a flight vehicle and its various components. In this case, the aerospace engineer may be expected to:

  • Supervise the assembly of airframes and the installation of engines, instruments and other equipment.
  • Decide on things like where fuel tanks should be placed and check that the support structure of the aircraft is strong enough to carry the extra weight.
  • Conduct tests to measure the performance of an aircraft or part, or to make sure that design specifications and airworthiness requirements are met.
  • Participate in flight test programs to measure take-off distances, rate of climb, stall speeds, manoeuvrability and landing capacities, etc.
  • Assess mechanical systems, flight characteristics and aircraft performance.
  • Investigate failed engines or other aviation components.
  • Develop procedures for the repair of aviation components.
  • Work out and manage schedules for repairs and maintenance.

Often big airline operators such as Qantas will have their own repair and maintenance sections.

Aerospace engineers work in Regulatory/Certification Authorities

Aerospace engineers in regulatory authorities (CASA or Civil Aviation Safety Authority in Australia) check on designs proposed for safety and compliance of appropriate regulations by assessing the manufacturer's information and the aircraft's structure, electrical and avionics instruments and power plants.

These aerospace engineers may need to formulate new regulations, give special considerations to new designs, or issue certifications and licences. The aerospace engineers may also be involved in accident investigations or grounding of aircraft that aren’t air worthy.

Aerospace engineers work in Defence organisations

The Department of Defence in most countries around the world have branches that are responsible for monitoring the design and construction of new flight vehicles, and the in-service support and maintenance. Procurement involves choosing and overseeing contractors’ operations. Defence aerospace engineers may be responsible for performance and structural analysis and checking for the flight vehicle’s on-going air worthiness.

Aerospace engineers work in Research Organisations

Aerospace engineers are involved in pushing the boundaries of aerospace science to meet new technology challenges. This may be in industry, research and defence organisations or as part of industry and academic collaborations with universities or as part of postgraduate research.

Aerospace engineers work in Software Development Companies

Aerospace engineers use software extensively for a multitude of tasks, so it makes sense for aerospace engineers to be part of the development of software specific to the aerospace industry.

Aerospace engineers work in Court

Aircraft accidents usually end up in court. An aerospace engineer is required to provide technical expertise to resolve issues, including providing an accident report or acting as an expert witness.

Aerospace engineers work in financial institutions

Yes, you heard right. Many aerospace engineers have been employed in financial institutions in risk assessment of various financial investments.