Aeronautical / Aerospace Engineering is one of the most challenging fields of engineering with a wide scope for growth. This field deals with the development of new technology in the field of aviation, space exploration and defence systems. It specialises in the designing, construction, development, testing, operation and maintenance of both commercial and military aircraft, spacecrafts and their components as well as satellites and missiles.
As Aerospace engineering involves design and manufacture of very high technology systems, the job requires manual, technical as well as mechanical aptitude. Aeronautical engineer's usually work in teams under the supervision of senior engineers, bringing together their skills and technical expertise. Though highly paid, the work is very demanding. An aeronautical engineer needs to be physically fit and fully dedicated to his work. One needs to be alert, have an eye for detail and should have a high level of mathematical precision to be successful.
The specialisations includes in areas like structural design, navigational guidance and control systems, instrumentation and communication or production methods or it can be in a particular product such as military aircrafts, passenger planes, helicopters, satellites, rockets etc. Engineers may work in areas like design, development, maintenance as well as in the managerial and teaching posts in institutes. They find a very good demand in airlines, aircraft manufacturing units, air turbine production plants or design development programmes for the aviation industry. Aerospace environment is sophisticated with rewarding career opportunities involving leading-edge technology.
To be an aeronautical engineer one should have a graduate degree (B.E/B.Tech.) or at least a diploma in Aeronautics. The degree and postgraduate degree courses are offered by the engineering colleges and Institutes of Technology (IITs), and the diploma courses are available at polytechnics.
The basic eligibility criteria for a BE / B.Tech is 10+2 or equivalent examination, with Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics and must have a fairly high percentage of marks in the aggregate. One must also pass the qualifying exam JEE (Joint Entrance Exam) conducted by the IIT's.
Selection : Selection to the graduate courses ( BE / B.Tech ) is based on merit i.e the marks secured in the final exams of 10+2 and through entrance exams. Entrance to the IIT's is through 'JEE' (Joint Entrance Exam) and for other institutions through their own separate entrance exams and other state level and national level exams. Most of the institutes conducting engineering courses in Aeronautics consider JEE score as the qualifying grade.
There is also the Associate Membership Examination of the Institute of Engineers (AMIE), which enables working people in the private and public sector, or diploma holders to acquire a Bachelor's engineering degree through distance education by studying the syllabus and appearing for the Associate membership examination of the Institute of Engineers (AMIE) conducted by ASI ('The Aeronautical Society of India'). This degree is equivalent to aeronautical engineering degree. Those with a degree in electronics, mathematics or physics can also find opportunities in this area.
Some Institutes offer postgraduate (M Tech) and Doctoral (Ph D) programmes in Aeronautics. The Madras Institute of Technology offers a three year Graduate Programme in Aeronautical Engineering for B Sc students, subject to their having passed Maths and Physics at the graduation stage. The Indian Institute of Science (IIS), Bangalore has M Tech and Ph D programmes in aeronautics.
Duration : The duration is four years, ending with a degree recognised by the ministry of education, government of India. The diploma courses are of 2-3 years duration.
Personal Skills : Aeronautical engineers should have an eye for detail and be good at problem-solving. They need mathematical precision and design skills, computer skills, and the ability to communicate well. They also need good planning ability and a knack for working under pressure. An aeronautical engineer needs to be physically fit an may need to often work at great speed especially in checking and maintenance of aircrafts during turnarounds. They must have a normal colour vision
Aeronautical Engineers work with one of the most technologically advanced branches of engineering. The main thrust in this area is on design and development of aircrafts to space and satellite research. Jobs are available with the national, international, public and private Airline Services as well as aircraft-manufacturing units.
Job opportunities for an Aeronautical Engineer in India, lies with various airlines like Air India, Indian Airlines, Helicopter Corporation of India and flying clubs, private airlines and government owned air service and aircraft manufacturers like the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) with its factories at Bangalore, Nashik, Koraput, Kanpur etc. Defense Research and Development Laboratories, National Aeronautical Lab (NAL), Aeronautical Development Establishment, Civil Aviation Department etc. The Defence services and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) also happen to be two major employers.
Initially, candidates begin work as graduate engineer trainees or junior Engineers. Keeping in view their performance, academic background and aptitude, they are placed for training in the aircraft maintenance/overhaul or support section. On completion of training they are placed as assistant aircraft engineers or assistant technical officers. They have to clear departmental examinations for further promotions. They may advance to administrative or executive positions or become consultants. Aeronautical engineers are assisted by aircraft mechanics in maintenance of aircraft frame, engine, electrical system and other ancillary fittings
Engineers in government organisations, are paid official scales while those in the private sector are paid according to the scales decided by the management of the company.
The approximate starting salaries in the government /public sectors such as HAL, NAL are Rs. 8,000 to Rs.10,000 (excluding other allowances). In the private sector, the scales are decided by the management of the company and are approximately Rs.8,000 to Rs.15,000 per month plus perks. Engineering graduates with management degrees get a starting salary of Rs.10,000 to Rs.40,000 per month plus perks. Entrepreneurs can earn above Rs.20,000/- per month. Airline professionals get fringe benefits of free travel for self and family also, apart from numerous other perks.