Mataaro Whakahaere Pūkaha Rererangi
Aeronautical engineers plan and supervise the design, development, manufacture, modification, and maintenance of all types of flight vehicles.
Aeronautical engineers usually earn
$73K-$90K per year
Industry sources indicate that the average gross annual salary for aeronautical engineers was about $82,500 in 2011, with the highest-paid 25% earning an average of $90,450, while the lowest-paid 25% earned an average of $73,750 a year.
Senior aeronautical engineers in charge of a team or leading a project may earn more than $100,000 a year.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Aeronautical engineers may do some or all of the following:
- study aircraft defects or faults, and recommend repairs or modifications
- design equipment or tools to repair or maintain aircraft
- discuss designs and data with colleagues, aircraft engineering tradespeople, aircraft manufacturers, and airline owners
- make detailed records of drawings, technical instructions, assessments, and calculations
- oversee the design of new aircraft or modifications to existing aircraft
- give technical and regulatory advice to professionals in the aerospace industry.
Skills and knowledge
Aeronautical engineers need to have:
- knowledge of aircraft structures and engine systems
- a good understanding of aerodynamics (how aircraft fly) and thermodynamics (the effects of heat on aircraft)
- knowledge of design techniques and engineering principles
- an understanding of mechanical processes and the metals and alloys used in aircraft
- knowledge of civil aviation laws and regulations
- the ability to explain complicated ideas in simple language for report writing or to express design plans to aircraft engineers and technicians
- the ability to use computer-aided design (CAD).
- usually work regular business hours, but are sometimes required to work long hours, weekends and evenings. They are often on call
- work in offices, at airports, and aircraft workshops or hangars
- may travel nationally and internationally to inspect aircraft and attend courses and conferences on aeronautical engineering.
What's the job really like?
James Wyllie - Aeronautical Engineer
What does your job involve?
"My role is to design repairs for the structure of our aeroplanes to make sure they stay in the air.
"Your typical repairs could be to fix damage to the airframe caused by things like lightning strikes or corrosion. They could be repairs to something big like a wing, or it could be to something as little as a cupholder."
You've only been in the job for a year – what have been the biggest challenges so far?
"Learning all of the civil aviation regulations. There are layers of rules governing everything we do, from the manufacturers' maintenance manuals, through to Air New Zealand's own procedures, and compliance at all times with the Civil Aviation Act. We've got to make sure that all of the repairs we do are following those to the letter so that people can fly safely."
What's the most satisfying part of being an aeronautical engineer?
"All the repairs we do are divided into two categories – either minor or major. The major ones are a bit more important, because if they don't go so well, they could cause big problems. You have to put a bit more work into them and there's a big emphasis on integrity and safety. But because of that, you get a really good result at the end, which always gives you a good feeling of accomplishment."
To become an aeronautical engineer you need to have a Bachelor of Engineering.
Some people may complete National Certificates in Aeronautical Engineering (Levels 3 and 4) before deciding to do a degree.
Aeronautical engineers should aim to become chartered professional engineers and Civil Aviation Authority design approval holders after five or more years of industry experience.
They may choose to become members of the Aircraft Engineering Association of New Zealand.
- Institute of Professional Engineers NZ website - more about becoming a chartered professional engineer
- Aircraft Engineering Association of New Zealand website - information about the association and membership
- Institute of Professional Engineers NZ website - choosing engineering as a career
- ServiceIQ website - information on the National Certificate in Aeronautical Engineering (Level 3)
A tertiary entrance qualification is needed to enter tertiary training. NCEA Level 3 maths, physics and chemistry is preferred.
Aeronautical engineers need to be:
- adaptable and creative
- practical and accurate
- analytical, and good at problem solving
- able to work well under pressure.
Useful experience for aeronautical engineers includes:
- any work involving machinery, engines, or vehicles
- technical drawing
- inventing mechanical or electronic devices or equipment.
Find out more about training
- Service IQ
- 0800 863 693 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.serviceiq.org.nz
- Royal NZ Air Force
- email@example.com - www.airforcecareers.mil.nz/Pages/default.aspx
What are the chances of getting a job?
Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment estimates show that the number of aeronautical engineers has been climbing steadily - from about 299 in March 2007 to 433 in March 2012 - but more are needed.
Continued growth in aviation expected
Demand for aeronautical engineers is expected to continue because the aviation industry is growing by about 5% a year.
New opportunities are also arising as airlines seek greater safety and comfort for their passengers. For example, in 2008 Air New Zealand launched Altitude Aerospace Interiors - a specialist aircraft interior design and construction company - which has attracted business from around the world. The company expects to double its workforce of 50 staff by 2013.
Air New Zealand main employer of aeronautical engineers
Most aeronautical engineers work for Air New Zealand Engineering. Other employers include:
- smaller airline and helicopter companies
- maintenance and aircraft design firms
- the Royal NZ Air Force.
- Bradley, G, 'Air NZ Designers Court Mega-Rich', NZ Herald, 19 September 2008, (www.nzherald.co.nz).
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Long-term Skill Shortage List', September 2010, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- Knotridge Limited, 'New Horizons – A Report on New Zealand's Aviation Industry', 15 June 2010, (www.nzte.govt.nz).
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2003-2012 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2012.
- Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology, 'The Future of the Aviation Engineering Industry', accessed June 2008, (www.nmit.ac.nz).
Progression and specialisations
Aeronautical engineers may move into supervisory or management roles within airlines, oversee a team of engineers, or become self-employed consultants working on a wide range of projects.
Some aeronautical engineers may specialise in particular types of aircraft such as:
- military aircraft
- aerospace vehicles, such as rockets.
Last updated 29 March 2018