Aerospace Engineering 6

  1. Who do aerospace engineers work with?
    - question from Dave
    What are the usual daily contacts if you work as an aerospace engineer? Customers, patients, clients, politicians, administrators, or students? My second questions is where do you usually work if you're an aerospace engineer
    - question from Brett Hayman
    I'd say that the most common contacts an average aerospace engineer will have in a typical day include fellow engineers within the same organization or counterparts at other facilities as well as immediate supervisors. Speaking for myself, I often correspond with engineers doing work similar to my own at other companies or government institutions. I also routinely contact engineers in other specialties, such as structural engineers or flight test engineers, to share the results of my work or collect information I need to do my job. We don't have "patients" (I hope), and I'm not familiar with many engineers who've ever had to deal with elected politicians (thankfully), but we do occasionally get to work with students when they do a summer internship. The term "customers" is an interesting one that has many connotations. Often times, we consider anyone who makes use of the work we do to be our customers, whether that fits the classic definition of a customer or not, so it is not uncommon to hear that term thrown around in almost any situation.

    Aerospace engineers work in many different locations and environments. Most work for large aerospace corporations like Boeing, Raytheon, or British Aerospace, companies in other fields like the automotive industry, or for government institutions like NASA or the military. Jobs are available across the US, but tend to be concentrated towards the coasts. Regions with large aerospace sectors include California, Texas, Florida, Washington, Arizona, Kansas, and the Washington DC area.

  2. I am currently a university student doing my preliminary year course, and I am stuck between Aerospace Vehicle Design and Flight Dynamics. I don't know which one to take. My career desire is to work in the air as a flight test engineer and on the ground with flight simulators and wind tunnels. Your advice? Also, do flight test engineers get to fly often, testing planes or something?
    - question from Daniel K.
    Based on your career aspirations, I'd say that flight dynamics is much better suited to meeting your needs. Flight simulation is essentially about calculating forces and moments and their effect on equations of motion, all of which you should cover in a flight dynamics program. Wind tunnel experimentation is also related, although usually more confined to the aerodynamic aspect of flight dynamics. Flight test engineering is a very broad area, so I'm not sure what exactly you mean by it. Regardless, I would think that flight dynamics would definitely be of greater value to you than a design curriculum.

    There are many people considered to be flight test engineers (FTEs) where I work. Most of them are not certified to fly and do all their work on the ground. They are typically responsible for working out the bugs of some specific piece of equipment or software package. As a result, they conduct laboratory experiments on that item, ground tests of the item installed aboard an actual aircraft, and monitor flight tests from a ground control facility.

    A few actually do go through training to be able to fly. This training is rather stringent and lengthy. They have to go through various physicals, swimming tests, ejection tests, etc. Even after completing all that, the FTEs are not considered pilots but can only ride aboard the aircraft (in the back seat, for example). From this position, they would typically perform tests of hardware and software during flight. I've known several people who were interested in becoming back-seat qualified, but very few have actually gotten far enough through the training to actually fly, and they get to do so maybe once or twice every 6 months, on average. However, these observations may not be typical of other places. Depending on where you want to work, FTEs might be in greater demand and have more opportunities to fly.

  3. I'm interested in working for the armed forces. Do they need aeronautical engineers and what do they do?
    - question from Rene
    The military does employ many aerospace engineers, particularly air forces and naval or army air services. In the US, most engineers working for the Air Force are actually government contractors who are technically employed by private companies but work on Air Force projects. While such contractors also perform work for the Navy and Army, those services tend to hire a greater percentage of government employees working directly for the military.

    These engineers perform a variety of tasks, mostly focused on ensuring that the weapon systems being purchased by the military will meet their needs. Some work directly with counterparts at companies like Boeing or Lockheed Martin to oversee the development of new aircraft or weapons and verify that they will perform as required. Many others work in the testing environment, putting aircraft, weapons, or other systems through their paces to ensure that they work in actual combat situations. Other aerospace engineers are involved in approving flight clearances that tell the troops in the field what they can and can't do with a weapon system. Others perform more analytical tasks, such as developing concepts for new weapons to meet future threats or performing simulations to determine how effective a system might be in different kinds of missions. As you can see, aerospace engineers are needed for many different kinds of jobs, and their skills are in high demand by the armed services.

  4. I would like to know if one can get into aircraft accident investigations by studying aerospace engineering?
    - question from crazyboy
    Yes, aerospace engineers are employed by government agencies like the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to provide expertise in the investigation of aircraft accidents. The military services also conduct their own accident investigations and sometimes employ civilian engineers in the process.
  5. If I get a bachelors degree from an accredited school in Pakistan, will it be accepted elsewhere in the world? Will I be able to seek higher education or a job in the USA?
    - question from Usama Tassawar
    Foreign engineers are often hired by companies in the US or other nations throughout Europe and Asia. So long as your grades and communication skills are good, you shouldn't have a problem finding employment in another country. The only restriction I can think of is that many US companies in the defense industry require their employees to be citizens of that nation rather than just residents. Your job prospects would also probably improve if you earned an advanced degree in the US. I've known many students from Pakistan and other foreign nations who were accepted into American universities, so you should have no problems so long as you have good credentials.
  6. I have always loved aircraft and spacecraft of any kind and always wanted to be an aerospace engineer. Unfortunately, I am horrible at chemistry and seem to have to spend a lot of time to get math. Because of these difficulties, I never pursed any sort of engineering degree. I've been in a job that I absolutely hate for 14 years. I've considered some sort of technical degree or certification in aircraft maintenance or manufacturing. Here is my question...I am 39 years old, is it too late to pursue a career as an aerospace engineer?
    - question from Terry
    I've known a number of engineering students who started their education in their 30s or 40s. I'd imagine it can be difficult to be a student again after so long, but it's certainly possible with the right attitude and willingness to learn. A good option for you might be to start your education at a local community college. Many such schools offer the basic courses in mathematics, physics, and chemistry that a student would take at a four-year college, but the class sizes are much smaller and you'd be more likely to get personal instruction. These colleges are also full of other non-traditional students returning to school later in life, not to mention the fact that tuition costs are far less than a university. I spent the first two years of my education at a community college before transferring to a state university to complete my degree in aerospace engineering, and it worked out quite well.

- answer by Joe Yoon
- answer by Molly Swanson
- answer by Jeff Scott, 26 October 2003

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