Engineering a top flight career

Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology

ISSN: 0002-2667

Article publication date: 1 April 2000




(2000), "Engineering a top flight career", Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology, Vol. 72 No. 2.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

Engineering a top flight career

Engineering a top flight career

Keywords: Engineering, Aerospace industry, Career development

For the last 20 years making a career in engineering has been more about a labour of love, undertaken by enthusiasts, than individuals looking for financially rewarding careers. In the past two years, however, this has begun to change.

Engineers are now starting to be considered for the valuable commodities they are, this is true especially in the UK.

The marketplace

The marketplace for those already in the industry or those wishing to enter is changing rapidly and as a consequence so are the skills needed to maintain or achieve success.

Over the last two years mega mergers at the prime level have taken place creating truly global companies with massive in-house capabilities. Organizations and famous names that will have gone forever include McDonnell Douglas, Allied Signal, Hughes, GEC Marconi and British Aerospace, to name but a few.

This merger mania not only has affected the primes but has almost run its course through many second tier aerospace companies and is well on its way to make an impact on third tier players.

One of key consequences of a lot of these mergers is that the emerging businesses have become, or are looking to become, systems integrators, offering a wide range of services, rather than just manufacturers of various "widgets". BAE Systems would be a classic example of this change.

Gareth Sharp, Resource Aviation Management - the UK's leading aviation recruitment and manpower outsourcing specialists - explains:

For engineering careers this move can be seen as positive. There may well be fewer players in the marketplace, but this change of emphasis, to systems integrators, could create the need for more technically skilled people to make it work. This, coupled with the already glaring lack of good engineering skills in the marketplace, may be a very large cause for concern for any business when it comes to recruit the right calibre of staff.


As well as the massive changes, and shifting of power, within the manufacturers technology is also playing its part.

The industry is constantly looking to streamline manufacturing process and constantly "borrows" best practice from other industries such as the automotive industry for example. This has enabled current products to be re-engineered and offered at lower price tags than before.

Perhaps more importantly, technology is having, and has had, a big impact on the design times of airframes, subassemblies and engine CAD and CAM are being used more to their full potential and being integrated to cover all disciplines. You only have to look at the turnaround time, from inception to completed demonstrator, on projects such as the Boeing JSF.

New technology is now being successfully tested, where possible, in computer simulated environments. Rolls-Royce on its Trent family of engines has benefited from this sort of technology.

For business to really benefit from technology their staff need to be conversant and familiar with these advances. Thorough in-depth training is a necessity.

Geoff Thorpe, a Business Manager at Resource Aviation Management - the UK's leading aviation recruitment and manpower outsourcing specialists - explained:

Organizations must train and retrain their staff with the latest proven skills in technological advances; otherwise they run the risk of being left behind by the competition. This sort of expense needs to be seen as an investment for the company's future and not just a bottom line deduction.

The market

For the larger operators the byword for the last two years has been "alliance". Whether "Star", "OneWorld" or any other variation on the theme, global alliances have been the dominant factor with the hope of providing one seamless service, to more destinations than the other. Each camp is ready to fiercely defend its position, especially when it comes to retaining or acquiring regional hubs, Canada being an interesting battle ground of late.

With all but a few of the major carriers in alliances of some sort urgent attention to a drop in passenger yields is being given. Operators who were once seen as "leading the way" have since "lost their way" and British Airways in particular are cutting capacity and refocusing on high-yield passengers. Many other carriers will have to address this problem sooner rather than later.

No area is sacred in terms of cost cutting and this includes engineering. Operators are always looking to reduce costs or get better efficiencies. One of the ways in which this can be done is through outsourcing or sub-contracting maintenance.

Skill shortages

Many third-party organisations exist to offer maintenance services to various carriers, whether it is for line or hangar work, and acute engineering manpower shortages exist here also.

It is important that aircraft are repaired on time and to the satisfaction of whichever authority governs the maintenance organisation. Unwanted AOGs cost carriers money, and not small amounts. Anything from £30,000 to £60,000 per day can be the price for such a delay.

Dave Rowe of Resource Aviation Management, explains:

Owing the lack of suitably qualified technicians and engineers, for maintenance programmes, and the seasonal nature of the work, a lot of technicians work on a temporary or contract basis being paid by the hour. For people skilled in avionics repair, in particular, they can command a high price. This can range, dependent on approvals to work on certain aircraft, from £26-£40 per hour.


Training is of paramount importance as new regulations and regulatory bodies affect the way maintenance is carried out, especially across Europe. Again any training must be seen as an investment for a maintenance organization.

Market forecasts estimate that throughout the industry over the next 15 years 10,000 jobs per year will be created. All organizations must realise that in order to remain competitive they must engage the right calibre of worker. Businesses are constantly looking to make savings or gain greater efficiencies from their suppliers.

Specialist manpower outsource organizations, such as Resource Aviation Management, are the way forward. Undertaking recruitment, organizing training and attracting the right sort of individual into the industry are all specialist skills. Manpower outsourcing is a way of getting the best and most efficient solutions for these skills for any business.

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