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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Laboratory technicians carry out routine laboratory tests and perform a variety of technical support functions to help scientists, technologists and others with their work. They can work in research and development, scientific analysis and testing, education and manufacturing.
They are employed in a wide range of scientific fields which affect almost every aspect of our lives.
Aerospace engineering technicians need to:
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.
5th Floor, Woolgate Exchange,
25 Basinghall Street, London, EC2V 5HA
Tel: 020 3206 0400
The Engineering Council (ECUK),
246 High Holborn, London, WC1V 7EX
Tel: 020 3206 0500
The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET),
Michael Faraday House, Stevenage, Herts, SG1 2AY
Tel: 01438 313311
Tel: 0845 605 5555
SEMTA (Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies Alliance),
14 Upton Road, Watford WD18 0JT
Tel: 01923 238441
Women's Engineering Society
Tel: 01438 765506
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.