Aerospace Engineering & Operations Technician
An aerospace engineering and operations technician could...
|Test a part from an aircraft after a crash to find out why it failed.||Service and prepare the space shuttle for its next launch.|
|Prototype a communications satellite that will allow calls from anywhere on Earth.||Test solid rocket boosters to help determine which one will perform the best at liftoff.|
Key Facts & Information
|Overview||Aerospace engineering and operations technicians are essential to the development of new aircraft and space vehicles. They build, test, and maintain parts for air and spacecraft, and assemble, test, and maintain the vehicles as well. They are key members of a flight readiness team, preparing space vehicles for launch in clean rooms, and on the launch pad. They also help troubleshoot launch or flight failures by testing suspect parts.|
|Key Requirements||Strong hands-on mechanical and electrical skills, detail-oriented, creative, and able to communicate well and work in teams|
|Minimum Degree||Associate's degree|
|Subjects to Study in High School||Chemistry, physics, computer science, algebra, geometry, algebra II, pre-calculus, English; if available, applied technology.|
|Projected Job Growth (2010-2020)||Little or No Change (-2% to 2%)|
Training, Other Qualifications
Most aerospace engineering and operations technicians enter the occupation with an associate degree in engineering technology. Training is available at technical institutes, community colleges, extension divisions of colleges and universities, public and private vocational-technical schools, and in the Armed Forces. Because the type and quality of training programs vary considerably, prospective students should carefully investigate training programs before enrolling.
Education and Training
There are several ways to train to become an aerospace engineering and operations technician. In high school you should take as many math and science classes as possible. You can then attend a college or technical school and take a two-year program in engineering or aerospace technology. Some schools have work-study programs in which you attend classes while working in the industry. Some companies in the aerospace industry offer on-the-job training programs. Apprenticeship programs, such as those given in drafting and electronics, may lead to a technician's job. Graduates of technical schools run by the armed services may also be able to find jobs as aerospace engineering and operations technicians. In addition, there are home-study courses that can qualify you for a job as a technician in the aerospace industry. Technicians may have to pass a security clearance before they can work on defense projects.
Because many engineering technicians assist in design work, creativity is desirable. Good communication skills and the ability to work well with others also are important as engineering technicians are typically part of a team of engineers and other technicians.
Nature of the Work
The aerospace industry is based on aeronautics, the science of flight, and on astronautics, the science of space travel. Both aircraft and spacecraft are produced in this industry. Aerospace engineering and operations technicians construct, test, and maintain aircraft and space vehicles. They may work on rockets, missiles, helicopters, and airplanes. They may adjust test equipment for accuracy and determine causes of equipment malfunctions. Using computer and communications systems, aerospace engineering and operations technicians often record and interpret test data. Technicians in the aerospace industry may work on many kinds of projects.
Most aerospace engineering and operations technicians work for companies that build aircraft and space vehicles. These companies have contracts to build this equipment for private airlines or the federal government. Some aerospace engineering and operations technicians work for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), universities, or research institutes. Although much of this industry is located on the west coast, some companies in the aerospace industry are located in the south or along the east coast.
Due to the complexity of the aerospace industry, there is great variety in the type of work available for technicians. Many technicians specialize in certain kinds of equipment, such as air intake valves for jet engines. Some spend several years working on small, one-of-a-kind parts used in spaceships. Others specialize in certain kinds of systems, such as hydraulic, electrical, or mechanical systems. They may also work with aircraft instruments, sheet metal, or landing gear.
No matter what kind of equipment they work on, aerospace engineering and operations technicians generally work as part of a team under the direction of scientists or engineers. Technicians perform much of the routine work, allowing the scientists and engineers to focus on tasks that make use of their more advanced training.
Aerospace engineering and operations technicians work in all phases of their industry including research and development, production, and sales. Some technicians prepare precise drawings or scale models. Others work with special instruments to take measurements, collect information, or perform laboratory tests. They may write reports, make cost estimates, or prepare plans for the manufacture of equipment. Some aerospace engineering and operations technicians work as field representatives. They offer assistance and advice to their company's customers, such as NASA or the armed services. Other technicians work as technical writers, preparing information for instruction manuals or catalogs.
Aerospace engineering and operations technicians usually work in modern, well-equipped plants, laboratories, or offices. At times they must work in small spaces, such as the inside sections of space vehicles. Production lines or testing centers can be very noisy. Workers are given ear protectors if the noise level is dangerous. Aerospace engineering and operations technicians sometimes work nights and weekends, but 35-40-hour weeks are standard. At times technicians must work longer hours to complete a project on time. When their projects are completed, aerospace engineering and operations technicians must find other jobs. They may have to move to a new area to find a job requiring their special skills.
Aerospace engineering and operations technicians generally work as part of a team that includes scientists, engineers, and technologists. They must be able to work well with others. They should also have an aptitude for science and mathematics and be able to concentrate on the details of their work. Technicians need to be responsible people who can work well with their hands. Some aerospace engineering and operations technicians belong to unions.
On the Job
- Inspect, diagnose, maintain, and operate test setups and equipment to detect malfunctions.
- Record and interpret test data on parts, assemblies, and mechanisms.
- Confer with engineering personnel regarding details and implications of test procedures and results.
- Adjust, repair or replace faulty components of test setups and equipment.
- Identify required data, data acquisition plans and test parameters, setting up equipment to conform to these specifications.
- Construct and maintain test facilities for aircraft parts and systems, according to specifications.
- Operate and calibrate computer systems and devices to comply with test requirements and to perform data acquisition and analysis.
- Test aircraft systems under simulated operational conditions, performing systems readiness tests and pre- and post-operational checkouts, to establish design or fabrication parameters.
- Fabricate and install parts and systems to be tested in test equipment, using hand tools, power tools, and test instruments.
- Finish vehicle instrumentation and de-instrumentation.
- Exchange cooling system components in various vehicles.
Companies That Hire Aerospace Engineering & Operations Technicians
Explore what you might do on the job with one of these projects...
- Aerodynamics and Bridge Design
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- How Far Will It Fly? Build & Test Paper Planes with Different Drag
- How Low Can It Go? Design a Kite that Flies Best in Low Winds
- Into the Wild Blue Yonder: The Science of Launching an Airplane by Catapult
- Let's Go Fly a Kite!
- Parachutes: Does Size Matter?
- Rocket Aerodynamics
- Rocket Science: How High Can You Send a Payload?
- Showing the Airflow in a Wind Tunnel
- Solid Motor Rocket Propulsion
- Spinning Your Wheels: Pinwheel Sensitivity
- Stealthy Shapes: How to Make an Aircraft Invisible to Radar
- Take a Candle Carousel for a Spin
- The 'Ultimate' Science Fair Project: Frisbee Aerodynamics
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- The Wright Stuff: Using Kites to Study Aerodynamics
- Three, Two, One...Blast Off! Learn to Design an Ion Engine.
- Up, Up, and Away in Your Own Hot-air Balloon!
Do you have a specific question about a career as an Aerospace Engineering & Operations Technician that isn't answered on this page? Post your question on the Science Buddies Ask an Expert Forum.
- American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics: www.aiaa.org
- American Society for Engineering Education: www.asee.org
- O*Net Online. (2009). National Center for O*Net Development. Retrieved May 1, 2009, from http://online.onetcenter.org/
- Net Industries. (2009). Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technician Job Description, Career as a Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technician, Salary, Employment - Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job. Retrieved August 10, 2009, from http://careers.stateuniversity.com/pages/357/Aerospace-Engineering-Operations-Technician.html
- The Franklin Institute. (1998, June 11). People Who Test and Inspect 'Em. Retrieved March 19, 2014, from http://www.fi.edu/wright/again/wings.avkids.com/wings.avkids.com/Careers/test.html
- Connecticut Business and Industry Association. (2008, December 19). Aerospace Technician. Retrieved December 8, 2009, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFa2LgnbArs
- GadBall. (2007, July 9). Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technicians. Retrieved December 9, 2009, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZzLob9FPBU
- DreamItDoItIndiana.com. (2010, March 30). Engineering Technician. Retrieved March 19, 2014, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4v6zxdzda2Y
We'd like to acknowledge the additional support of:
- Northrop Grumman