Aircraft or aerospace engineers are essential to the aviation and aerospace industries. Every aircraft that flies, whether it’s a flying club’s Cessna 152, a private jet, an Airbus A380, or a F-35 Lightning requires aircraft engineers to keep it flying.
All aircraft, large or small, simple or complex, require qualified engineers who carry out the mandatory checks and maintenance on the airframe, engines, and instruments. These checks and scheduled maintenance may be prompted by time periods or the number of hours an aircraft has spent in the air. As well as servicing existing aircraft, aerospace engineers may also be employed to research, design, and test new aircraft, missiles, satellites, and spacecraft.
Unmanned aircraft fly without a pilot aboard but no aircraft can fly without an engineer to build, service, and maintain it. Pay and benefits are commensurate with experience and responsibilities, and aircraft engineering is no exception.
The following figures are averages collected in late 2018. They are base salaries so they don’t include any bonuses, overtime, or profit shares that may be offered. This is an important point to remember because such extras can make a significant difference to your take-home pay.
- Australia, AU$48,000 rising to AU$120,000 Australian Dollars.
- Canada, C$40,000 rising to C$93,000 Canadian Dollars.
- Dubai, AED 110,000 rising to AED 585,000 Arab Emirate Dirhams.
- Egypt, EGP 49,000 rising to EGP 1,184,000 Egyptian Pounds.
- Germany, €24,000 rising to €77,000 Euros.
- India, Rs 207,000 rising to Rs 2,345,000 Rupees.
- Ireland, €23,000 rising to €71,000 Euros.
- Malaysia, RM 21,600 rising to RM 236,000 Ringgits.
- New Zealand, NZ$41,000 rising to NZ$100,000 New Zealand Dollars.
- South Africa, R148,000 rising to R595,000 Rand.
- United Kingdom, £22,000 rising to £60,000 Pounds Sterling.
- United States, $29,000 rising to $108,000 US Dollars.
How to become a licenced Aircraft Engineer or Technician
The safety of aircraft and therefore the lives of passengers and crew rely upon the expertise of engineers, so the training and qualifications are demanding. You’ll need a strong technical aptitude and attention to detail.
There are several grades of engineers; for example, Ramp or Line Maintenance Mechanics who service existing aircraft, replacing parts, and carrying out routine maintenance. Then there are Base Technicians who carry out overhauls on older or more complex aircraft.
Then there are the categories associated with the various aircraft types; fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft, so the candidate has to choose which aircraft type interests them and therefore which path of training and certification they want to follow.
Candidates who are still at school should focus on chemistry, physics and mathematics. They should then aim for a foundation degree, or a degree in aerospace engineering, avionics, or a related subject.
The college or university might be able to provide you with on the job training as part of the course. Alternatively, you could work your way up by starting as an apprentice engineer with an airline or commercial aviation business. As your skills grow and you gain more experience you can study for licensing and certification for you chosen aircraft type.
As your career progresses you can specialise in an area; becoming an expert in aerodynamics, fuel efficiency, space technology, or investigating air accidents. Alternatively, you can gain the necessary experience and certifications by joining one of the armed forces. One thing is for certain; as long as the aviation industry remains buoyant there will be demand for aircraft engineers, and if you’re a specialist the demand and the rewards will be higher.