Aircraft engineers (sometimes called aeronautical or aerospace engineers) keep planes in the air. They are the ones that check them over and declare them airworthy: aerospace engineers have an incredible position of responsibility, with the lives of hundreds of passengers in their capable hands. Like aircraft mechanics and aircraft technicians, many aerospace engineers are based at airports, and will examine aircraft upon landing to make sure it is fully operational and safe for flight.
Aerospace Engineering is a broader field than that however; and unlike those mechanics and technicians, aricraft engineers are often involved in the production and design of the aircraft and their systems themselves. Some aerospace engineers supervise any or all stages of aircraft production, including design and manufacture, and even faesability: looking into proposed plans and determining whether they are financially and physically possible.
Engineers will work for a range of companies, and their roles can range from developing new weapons systems and cutting edge technology for someone like BAE systems, to being the feet on the ground for an airline like Virgin, keeping passengers and planes safe. If it’s technical, and to do with planes, there will be an aeronautical engineer not far away.
Almost all engineers will have at least a batchellors degree and many will have a masters and more: this degree will be in a technical engineering subject, and specific aerospace engineering degrees are becoming increasingly popular. But because of the wide range of components and specialties required to make an aeroplane however, degrees in electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and even software and materials are equally prized.
Electrical engineers might develop and maintain the complex navigaitonal and self monitoring systems, while software engineers would be employed to develop the software to use with these systems. Mechanical engineers would work with the moving parts, anything from engines to ailerons, while materials engineers might develop a new coating for the plane’s shell, enabling it to fly higher than ever.
Salary, as ever, is related to experience. Starting salaries for aircraft engineers tend to be between £20,000 and £25,000 however slightly more experienced aerospace engineers can earn between £28,000 and £40,000. Salary for senior engineers, such as project leaders is usually from £45,000 to £60,000.