Aerospace Engineering Technician

The Job and What's Involved

Aerospace engineering technicians work on the design, manufacture and operation of aircraft, missiles, satellites and space vehicles. Some may be specialist engineering technicians building and maintaining aircraft systems and components such as the fuselage, wings, engines, landing gear, brakes, flying controls and environmental systems. Others may be electrical or electronics technicians installing and testing electrical and electronic systems used in navigation, communications and flight control.

Technicians may specialise in:

Airframes - the construction and maintenance of fuselages.

Hydraulics - the operation of aircraft controls, ailerons, elevators and undercarriages.

Engines - piston or gas turbine engines.

Fuel - storage and the use of specialist fuels.

Pneumatics - air compression used in jet engines and in aircraft controls.

Avionics - electrical and communication systems.

Materials and structures - investigating and testing new and existing materials for airframes and components.

The work of an aerospace engineering technician involves one of four different areas:

Research
Design
Manufacture
Maintenance

Engineering technicians working in research aim to find new and innovative ways of doing things. They have to solve complex engineering problems caused by weight, altitude, temperature and engine performance, and they are particularly concerned with reducing the environmental impact of air travel.

Design involves turning ideas into plans for producing new aircraft or to improve existing aircraft. This can range from producing plans for a single component to a whole aircraft engine. Aerospace technicians use computer-aided design (CAD) systems to help produce and test their designs.

Manufacture involves producing, modifying and assembling the components that make-up aircraft, missiles or satellites.

Maintenance technicians may carry out basic maintenance between flights and includes pre-flight checks, fault diagnosis and repairs. They also carry out major servicing, maintenance and improvements to vast fleets of aircraft in service throughout the world.

Working on aerospace projects involves teams of people, so aerospace technicians may work with many different types of engineer, designer and manufacturer, as well as pilots and airlines.

Technicians normally work 37 to 40 hours a week. The hours can be considerably longer if there is a project deadline to meet or during testing periods. This may involve working evenings and weekends.

Technicians involved in research and design usually work in clean, quiet laboratories and research centres, but they may also visit production areas and airfields, which may be noisy.

Technicians may have to travel and spend short periods away from home. Aircraft maintenance work may involve frequent overseas travel.

Starting salaries may be around £15,000 a year. More experienced technicians may be able to earn between £25,000 and £30,000 and senior technicians may earn £35,000 or more.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

The UK has the second largest aerospace industry in the world and employs over 250,000 people, a figure that continues to grow. More than 85,000 people work in engineering occupations, and around 40,000 are in technical roles. There is currently a skills shortage of suitably qualified aerospace engineering technicians.

Career opportunities exist with private companies, from small- and medium-sized businesses to multinational aerospace manufacturers, aircraft maintenance specialists and airline operators. Other employers include the armed forces, government departments and agencies, regulatory authorities such as the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), and airports. Aerospace technicians may also find work with manufacturers of other vehicles such as hovercraft, cars and trains. There are clusters of aerospace companies around the UK, particularly in the Midlands, west, north-west and east of England and in Northern Ireland. There are also large aircraft maintenance facilities in Wales and Scotland.

The Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS) has a careers centre offering advice and consultancy. Information on career opportunities, course listings and Apprenticeships is available on their website. The society also runs a job website at www.aerosocietyjobs.com. Vacancies are also advertised in the local and national press, and on www.aviationjobsearch.com, a recruitment website for jobs within the aviation industry.

Education and Training

Technicians can either train with an employer on an Apprenticeship, or take a full-time or part-time college course and then apply to an employer for a trainee technician post.

Engineering is a field where it is possible to work up from apprentice level through to chartered engineer, and an Apprenticeship is the most common entry route to become an aerospace engineering technician. Applicants usually need a minimum of four or five GCSE's (A*-C), including maths and science or technology, or a BTEC First Diploma. The Diploma in engineering may also be relevant for this area of work.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

Full or part-time courses include BTEC National Certificates/Diplomas. Further study could lead to higher national certificates or diplomas (HNC's/HND's), or foundation degrees.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Apprenticeships usually last between three and four years, and apprentices complete a mixture of on-the-job and college-based training. Apprentices start at NVQ Level 2 and work up to Level 3. Many also gain other qualifications, such as City & Guilds, EAL or BTEC qualifications.

Technicians should aim towards the qualification EngTech for which they must register formally with the Engineering Council (ECUK) as an engineering technician. They must have an appropriate qualification such as an approved NVQ Level 3, BTEC national certificate or have followed an approved work-based learning route. They must also gain membership of an appropriate engineering institution, licensed by ECUK.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Aerospace engineering technicians need to:

  • Have good practical skills.
  • Be good at maths and computing.
  • Have a logical approach to problem solving.
  • Understand engineering drawings and principles.
  • Have good communication skills.
  • Be able to work in an organised way.
  • Work well in a team.
  • Have normal colour vision for certain roles.

Your Long Term Prospects

There is a high and growing demand in a wide range of engineering related fields for licensed engineering technicians (especially those who hold a Category B2 licence which permits the holder to certify maintenance work carried out on avionic and electrical systems).

Technicians may also go on to become licensed aircraft engineers. Promotion could be to other engineering posts or, with experience and higher qualifications, to management roles

There are good opportunities to work overseas with British or foreign aircraft operators.

Get Further Information

Engineering UK
5th Floor, Woolgate Exchange,
25 Basinghall Street, London, EC2V 5HA
Tel: 020 3206 0400
Website: www.engineeringuk.com/

The Engineering Council (ECUK),
246 High Holborn, London, WC1V 7EX
Tel: 020 3206 0500
Website: www.engc.org.uk

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET),
Michael Faraday House, Stevenage, Herts, SG1 2AY
Tel: 01438 313311
Website: www.theiet.org

RAF Careers
Tel: 0845 605 5555
Website: www.raf.mod.uk/careers

Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS),
4 Hamilton Place, London W1J 7BQ
Tel: 020 7670 4300
Website: www.aerosociety.com and www.aerosocietyjobs.com

SEMTA (Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies Alliance),
14 Upton Road, Watford WD18 0JT
Tel: 01923 238441
Website: www.semta.org.uk

Women's Engineering Society
Tel: 01438 765506
Website: www.wes.org.uk

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