Aerospace Engineering 2

  1. What hours do you work?
    In general, our hours are similar to any office-type work environment. We typically work a 40-hour week. Although most people come in around 7 or 8 and leave around 4 or 5, some have to come in much earlier or stay much later depending on the kind of work they do. For example, some of the projects I've worked on have needed me to come in at 5 AM or stay until 10 PM. Luckily there's only been one day I had to do both!
  2. How much time do you spend on a computer?
    Most of the work we do is done on computers, but that can vary a lot depending on the projects you work on. Some of the work I've done has involved a lot of computer programming so I spent all my time on computers. I've also been involved with flight testing which is more "hands-on" and I spent more time working on the aircraft or in a laboratory. Even then, however, the equipment we use is primarily the computer systems aboard the aircraft.
  3. What kinds of traveling do you have to do?
    Typical travel includes going to technical conferences where experts from universities, companies, and government research institutions present papers on their work. The other most common type of travel is visiting companies or government offices to talk to people about projects or participate in design reviews and testing. For example, companies send people to government institutions so they can see tests of the products they make and the government sends people to contractors offices and factories to make sure they are doing the necessary design work. Some people also go overseas to discuss projects with foreign customers, military allies, or corporate partners. Most trips are usually a few days or a week in duration, but they can be much longer. For example, people who go to do wind tunnel tests may be there for a month or more since these tests often take a long time to complete.
  4. How long does it take to climb up the corporate ladder?
    In both industry and government, people have two basic choices in their career path--technical and management. We all generally start out doing technical engineering work, the kinds of things you'd expect engineers to do: designing new equipment, computer programming, wind tunnel testing, analyzing data, etc. Some people are so good at this kind of work that they become highly-paid technical experts who are very well respected in their field of expertise. Others go into management and are responsible for overseeing technical people, making sure there are enough people to get the work done, proposing future projects, and making the decisions that keep an organization moving. It typically takes about 5 to 15 years of technical experience before someone is promoted to a management position.
  5. What are the pros and cons of your job?
    The biggest pro is the opportunity to try so many different things and work on such unique and sophisticated projects. Other advantages include a good salary, a good benefits package, and lots of paid holidays! I've also had the opportunity to travel to several interesting places for conferences, presentations, meetings, and training classes.

    There are a few cons. For one, aerospace engineers generally can't live wherever they want since the jobs are only available in a few areas. The job can also be very stressful at times, especially when you need to work late to get a project finished. The most boring thing many of us engineers have to do is write and review reports and technical documents. Even though I'm a pretty good writer and enjoy writing, some of the reports can be rather long and dull.

  6. What are the day-to-day responsibilities of an aerospace engineer?
    This is difficult to answer because it varies widely depending on the type of job one does. However, aerospace engineers predominantly work in one of two major branches of the field: aeronautical engineering (projects related to vehicles operating in the atmosphere) or astronautical engineering (projects related to vehicles operating in space).

    Aeronautical engineers tend to work on projects like wind tunnel tests, the design of aircraft or their components, analyzing flight test data, building and testing engines or rocket motors, predicting aerodynamic behavior using computers, designing flight control systems, making performance predictions for aircraft, and working on flight simulators.

    Typical projects an astronautical engineer might perform include designing power systems for satellites, analyzing spacecraft structures, developing communications systems for distant space probes, designing new rockets and manned space vehicles, planning future space missions, developing hardware and skills for spacecraft operations, designing and testing robotic systems, developing new propulsion systems, and computing optimum flight trajectories.

    More mundane tasks we have to do are the same as those you'll find in any career--writing reports and giving presentations on the work you've done or future work that needs to be done, attending conferences and meetings, etc.

  7. What kinds of projects do you work on?
    I mainly work on studying the aerodynamics of different kinds of flying vehicles. I use various computer programs to design parts of those vehicles, study how the air flows around them, perform trade-off studies to optimize the performance, and determine if the final product will meet the needs and requirements placed on it. I've also done some flight testing where my job is to collect data during the flights and study it to make sure everything works the way it's supposed to or figure out what could be wrong when it doesn't.
  8. What drives you to work in the field you do?
    I've always loved aviation and space flight since I was a kid, and I'm constantly trying to learn more about those fields. I wanted to understand how wings create lift, how engines make things move, and how the computers inside tell the vehicle where to go. Now I get to work on aircraft all day while I get paid for it!

- answer by Joe Yoon
- answer by Jeff Scott, 10 February 2002

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