Aerospace is an area within mechanical engineering that involves the analysis, design, manufacturing and maintenance of aircraft and space vehicles. Aerospace engineering is a very broad term for this industry and can branch out into many different sub fields which focus on more conventional engineering subjects such as mechanical, electrical and electronic or structural.
Responsibilities of aerospace engineers including designing components and systems using Computer Aided Design (CAD) and analysing its performance capabilities under stress within Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) software.
An aircraft being aerodynamically analysed during the lift phase of flight within CAE software. Source:
Designed products then need to be tested and commissioned, meeting all international safety standards. Following rigorous safety testing through computational and physical tests, products are then integrated into larger aircraft systems which requires excellent project management and cross functional communication skills. Aerospace engineers are also involved in the support of aftermarket products which includes the design and storage of these products to ensure they are readily available and can be managed to integrate into the current systems.
Aerospace engineering dates back to the 18th century when areas of fluid mechanics were being understood and the first aircraft utilised these principles and saw the first successful flight by the Wright brothers. They introduced aircraft controls making fixed wing powered flight possible. Designs progressed during WWI and the jet engine was patented by Sir Frank Whittle in 1930. Since then the complexity of aircraft and the safety standards have become stricter. Project life cycles can be up to 20 years due to the rigorous testing that must be completed for all components, to ensure all regulations and safety requirements are met. The aerospace industry is tightly regulated because of this.
Skills and Expertise
First Principles knowledge of mathematics and physics
Understanding of safety regulations (E.g. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA))
Knowledge of how aircraft structures and systems are created including a fundamental understanding of the forces acting against aircraft, how propulsion systems work and an applied knowledge of fluid mechanics to optimise flight efficiency.
CAD packages (E.g. CATIA, Solidworks, Autocad, Inventor, PTC Creo)
Finite Element Analysis (FEA) Software (E.g. Ansys, Abaqus, Nastran, HyperWorks)
Word processing, spreadsheets and presentations (E.g. MS Word, MS Excel, MS Powerpoint; Google Docs, Sheets and Slides)
Structures Design Engineer
Stress Analysis Engineer
Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) Analyst
Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Machinist
UK: Institute of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE), Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET), Royal Aeronautical Engineering Society (RAES)
USA: American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics