What is aeronautical engineering?
Aeronautical engineering is the study of the design and construction of an object passing through the air or machines capable of flying. This career path mostly deals with designing, construction, testing and maintenance of an aircraft, or any other flying machines like missiles, spacecraft etc. The most important area of this career is aerodynamics as the name suggests which is the science of how the air interacts with any object moving through it at a certain speed. They also work on new technologies related to commercial aviation, military or civil space programs.
What are the skills required to become an aeronautical engineer?
Developing an aircraft is a multidisciplinary project. It required numerous skills and expertise in various fields to develop an aircraft. As an aeronautical engineer, you have to manage these people who are expert in their domains to work together and move forward efficiently. So, you have to have some management skills. Every aspect of the development, production and testing cycle of the aircraft has to be done in great detail because any minor flaw could be disastrous and cost human lives. So the work of aeronautical engineers is monitored in great detail. So, an aeronautical engineer should have the ability to be very organised, communicate clearly with other teams and managers and document every detail of their work they are carrying out. Other than that you would be working in large teams with experts from all over the world, good communication, language skills and teamwork goes a long way. Other must-have skills for aeronautical engineers are very good technical skills, mathematics, physics, problem-solving skills, great time management skills, managing teams, working under tight deadlines, eye for multiple scenarios and safety concerns, good communication skills in terms of documenting the work and making other parties aware of the work status clearly.
Aeronautical engineering is a very challenging, and ever-developing field. Technology is always growing to find new ways to make the aircraft lighter, more fuel-efficient, have better capacity, easier maintenance, reduce the cost of production and make it safer to travel for the passengers. Majors tasks of an aeronautical engineer are as follows:
- Reviewing the technical details of the design.
- Managing the team who are building the prototype.
- Access the material required for the prototype.
- Implementing test procedures for different components and other systems of the aircraft.
- Sign off on the test flight.
- Manage teams of production engineers.
- Conducting and managing teams for research on different aspects of the aircraft, both theoretical and practical.
- The planning of the development, testing and production of the aircraft.
- Documenting the development of the aircraft and communicating with the management.
- Investigation causes of plane crashes.
What are the opportunities in this field and the future of aeronautical engineering?
As an aeronautical engineer, you can work for different airline firms like Indigo, AirIndia, GoAir etc. But most of the work in airlines would be related to aircraft maintenance. You would also have the opportunity to work in the Air Force in various roles like maintenance engineer, Flight engineer, an engineer at Research and development etc.
Aeronautical engineering in India – Opportunities in aeronautical engineering are limited in India as compared to other sectors like IT and Manufacturing. Aircraft development and manufacturing is a very capital and time-intensive endeavour and you need very high skilled workers and a lot of government support to even get started. India being a developing country, most private players steered clear of this sector because of high initial cost and shallow margins and also because the risk is way too high than investing in other more profitable sectors. Also getting that kind of skilled labour, not even skilled you would need experts in certain fields in India where the quality of education is also very low, is very difficult. So, currently, major players in this sector in India are only government organizations like DRDO, HAL, ISRO etc.
A lot of aeronautical engineers are graduating every year, competing to secure a position in these organizations. Obviously, since demand is pretty low and supply is high, competition has skyrocketed. Also, these organizations will select the best of the best candidates, so you have to work really hard to get into these organisations.
Future of aeronautical engineering in India – Ok, I know all these seem very doom and gloom. But there is some good news. You see aircraft have a lifespan and the design and technology of the aircraft are constantly evolving. So the government needs to constantly upgrade their fighter jets which gets very expensive if directly bought from other countries. To create a manufacturing ecosystem in India, our government is trying to bring foreign aircraft manufacturers to India and set up their manufacturing plants and also collaborate with Indian firms to manufacture different components. So, the prospect of new opportunities is looking positive for the upcoming graduating aeronautical engineers. Also, with the development of AI, machine learning and big data a lot of opportunities for digital technologies are cropping up in the aeronautics space too like in the area of predictive maintenance or AI-driven design and development of an aircraft and smart avionics etc.
Startups in aeronautical engineering – Smart & passionate people create opportunities for themselves even if there are none. With the success of SpaceX, Elon Musk has proved that space exploration is not reserved for only large government players, and satellite delivery and rocket propulsion can be lucrative business, enter reusable rockets.
Indian startup culture is on the rise. A lot of Indian startups in collaboration with ex-ISRO scientists are developing various types of propulsion engines to deliver satellites into space.
A few of the notable Indian startups are Skyroot Aerospace, Agnikul Cosmos, Bellatrix Aerospace, Pixxel Satellites. These startups are creating numerous opportunities for upcoming engineers to develop new technologies but most of these jobs are related to aerospace engineering.
Opportunities outside India – Aeronautical engineering degree has a better value in developed countries like the US or in Europe where there is much demand for these highly skilled specialised workers. After getting a bachelor’s degree from India, you can also opt for an MS Degree from the US or Germany with a specialization course in aeronautical engineering. After that, you have the option to explore career opportunities in those countries.
Alternative opportunities for aeronautical engineers – Even if you do not get an opportunity in the core aeronautics field, the skills which you will learn in an aeronautical degree course is highly valuable in the market if you are good at it, like design engineering, CAD modelling, Computer-based stress testing, problem-solving, analytical thinking, Fluid Dynamics, Thermodynamics etc. This technical know-how can help you secure a job in industries like automotive, heavy equipment manufacturing, consumer goods manufacturing, electronics and robotics industry, etc.
You can also opt for an opportunity in business development and management positions. People who are extremely passionate about aeronautics can explore other opportunities related to aircraft like Aircraft maintenance engineer, drone industry.
A good way to express your passion for aeronautics is through building Model aircraft, creating YouTube videos, writing contents about developments in this space etc. A man from Mumbai built an actual aircraft on his terrace just by watching youtube videos. There is a lot of content on YouTube about building small personal flying vehicles. If you have the money and passion you can explore that.
According to payscale.com the average base salary of an aeronautical engineer in India is 606,250 INR.