Aerospace engineering can be broken down into two distinct fields of work: astronautical engineering, which deals with spacecraft, and aeronautical engineering, which deals with aircraft. Aeronautical engineers are responsible for overseeing the design, assembly, testing and repairing of aircraft and aviation systems. Many specialize in specific types of aeronautic technologies, such as military fighter jets and missiles, commercial aircraft, helicopters, and control and guidance systems.
One of the main responsibilities of an aeronautical engineer is designing aircraft and machines or systems that help in the aviation process. These include propulsion mechanisms, flight simulators, support equipment and communications systems. According to myfuture.edu.au, aeronautical engineers make sketches and blueprints of their designs, and use computer programs to make virtual, three-dimensional models. They also make changes to existing designs to increase efficiency, such as by relocating or redistributing fuel tanks inside of aircraft to better distribute weight.
After aeronautical engineers have finished designing aircraft and aviation systems, they are ready to introduce them into the physical realm. According to degreedirectory.org, they do this by constructing scaled-down down models and---eventually---full-sized, functioning prototypes. The engineers oversee all aspects of the prototype assembly process, including the installation of instruments, engines and other equipment, and may decide to make design changes in order to increase strength, efficiency or both.
Another key responsibility of aeronautical engineers is testing aircraft and aviation systems. According to degreedirectory.org, aeronautical engineers use computer simulation programs, wind tunnels and complex mathematical equations to test the performance, efficiency and convenience, and safety of their prototypes and other existing aircraft. They may also participate in test-flight programs to measure characteristics like maneuverability, landing capacity, rate of climb, minimum take-off requirements and stall speeds, according to myfuture.edu.au.
Anytime an aircraft or aviation system malfunctions, an aeronautical engineer will likely be called in to diagnose the problem and make necessary repairs. According to myfuture.edu.au, in addition to investigating failed aviation components (such as engines), aeronautical engineers are also commonly responsible for developing repair procedures and techniques, as well as managing repair and maintenance schedules.
According to prospects.ac.uk, aeronautical engineers may also be responsible for managerial tasks, which can include managing budgets, tracking down resources and scheduling staff. In addition, some engineers may be called on to give regulatory advice to suppliers, clients and other professionals in the aeronautics industry to ensure proper aviation protocols are being followed.
- Photo Credit planes image by JASON WINTER from Fotolia.com
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