Career as an Airworthiness engineer

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Jane White works at an Aerodrome in Lancashire. Her job is to ensure that aircraft are fit to fly. The projects she has been involved with include the Tornado aircraft.

What does your airworthiness engineer job involve?

Airworthiness is all about assessing whether an aircraft is fit for flight. This involves examining evidence, such as drawings, design certificates and test reports provided by BAE Systems specialists and equipment suppliers. I then work as part of a team to compile a detailed set of documentation to certify an aircraft formally for its intended use, imposing any necessary limitations.

What does this involve?

Being a senior airworthiness engineer requires a broad understanding of aircraft systems, their interfaces and operation, as well as general design, structures, aerodynamics and control. You also need to know about systems safety.

Do you have a typical day?

The tasks I perform differ from day to day, and require a variety of skills. I may be doing a range of jobs from simple wiring changes to the clearance of entirely new systems, which vary from software releases to new weapons configurations.

How did you get into this career as an Airworthiness engineer?

After doing an industrial placement as part of my degree, I began work as a qualification engineer. From there, I moved into the area of design certification and airworthiness on the Merlin Helicopter Programme, before moving to my current post.

Why did you choose this type of work?

I thoroughly enjoy the variety and challenges airworthiness provides, and generally find engineering quite exciting. I like working on aircraft too. There are always problems that need solving.

What training have you received?

I learnt a lot through working on the Merlin Helicopter Programme – many of the processes in this role are similar and involve following guidelines set out in Defence Standards (government guidelines). I have learnt about the Tornado aircraft on the job and with the support of my colleagues.

What do you like best about your career as an Airworthiness engineer?

I enjoy the team approach and good humour of my colleagues. I also like the daily challenges of this field of engineering.

What are the main challenges?

It can be quite demanding and stressful, especially when nearing deadlines for flight clearances or deliveries, although this can be seen as part of the challenge.

What skills do you need to become an Airworthiness engineer?

You must be able to pay attention to detail. It's also important to be confident, assertive, an effective communicator and a strong team player. You have to be organised and able to meet strict deadlines.

What are your plans for the future?

I'd like to continue working with this division, but look into areas of safety and investigation. In the longer term, I'll maybe look towards a career in engineering project management.

Jane's route to her career as an Airworthiness engineer

  • A levels.
  • Diploma in Professional Studies.
  • Degree in Aeronautical Systems Engineering.
  • Airworthiness engineer on the Merlin Helicopter Programme.
  • Senior airworthiness engineer at BAE Systems.

Jane's airworthiness engineer tips

  • Engineering develops a strong personality and requires a good sense of humour.
  • Believe in your own abilities and be confident – then others will believe in you.
  • Be assertive and never be afraid to ask lots of questions.

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Salary of an Airworthiness engineer

  • Starting salaries for graduates are usually around £17,000 a year.
  • With experience, aerospace engineers may earn around £35,000 a year.
  • The average income for a qualified engineer is £45,000 or more.

Career as an Airworthiness engineer

  • Studying for an aeronautical engineering degree is the usual entry route. There are more than 32 universities in the UK offering aeronautical engineering-based courses. Entry is usually with at least two A levels/three H grades and five GCSEs/S grades (A-C/1-3), or the equivalent. Candidates should check entry requirements with individual institutions.
  • At many universities, students without the necessary background in science and maths can take a one-year foundation course before applying for a degree.
  • Some organisations, such as British Aerospace, British Airways, the RAF and the Ministry of Defence, may offer sponsorship to students on degree courses.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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