Aeronautical Engineering is a branch of engineering which deals with the design, development, testing, and production of aircraft and related systems. Of late, the term aeronautical engineering is largely replaced by the term Aerospace Engineering, which also includes dealing with spacecrafts, missiles, rocket-propulsion systems, and other equipment operating beyond the earth’s atmosphere, in addition to those mentioned earlier. In the strictest sense, an Aeronautical Engineer works within the earth’s atmosphere, whereas an Aerospace engineer works beyond it.
Aeronautical engineering is an attractive career in South Africa. More so, if your profession is in accordance with the South African and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) 2339-11. Aeronautical engineering is also listed on the Skilled Occupation List (SOL) and the Consolidated Sponsored Occupations List (CSOL) here.
Some of the career options available for an Aeronautical engineer are
- Mechanical & avionic licensed aircraft maintenance engineers
- Project manager
- Aircraft maintenance engineer – corporate aircraft
- Aircraft engineering instructor (avionics)
- Technical services engineer
- Maintenance planner
- Aviation engineer
- Simulation engineer – aerospace
- Aircraft structural integrity engineer
Apart from the above, there are various career options for an aeronautical engineer in South African Armed Forces like:
- Aeronautical engineering officer (navy)
- Aerospace engineer
- Aerospace engineer officer – aeronautical (air force)
- Aerospace engineer officer – armament (air force)
- Aerospace engineer officer – electronics (air force)
- Avionics systems engineer
- Weapons aeronautical engineering officer
As we can see from the above lists, the job of an aeronautical engineer is highly specialised in nature and it requires a lot of skill and knowledge to succeed in this field. In addition to the technical qualifications, one should also possess certain personality attributes like passion, ability to think on one’s feet and a willingness to learn continuously.
Specific Skills Required for Aeronautical Engineering as a Career
An aspiring aeronautical engineer should start preparing for a career in the field as early as possible –perhaps while in school. Aptitude in certain subjects like physics and mathematics would come handy while undergoing technical education. The ideal skills and requirements include
- analytical and problem-solving skills
- good oral and written communication skills
- practicality and creativity
- ability to work without supervision
- accepting responsibility
- ability to work as part of a team
The physical requirements of the job include an able body with normal vision and complete use of hands/fingers.
Choosing aeronautical engineering as a career would mean that you would be engaged in delivering a wide range of services related to the field, which would include functions like aircraft design, analysis, testing, and airworthiness approval. In short, you would perform all such activities concerned with the design, development, manufacture, maintenance and modification of aircraft for flight.
However, it is important that you attain technical education if you wish to be an aeronautical engineer. There are several universities / colleges offering engineering degree programs at bachelors (under- graduate), masters (graduate) and PhD levels. Aerospace Engineering diplomas, certification and degree can help you pursue a career in Aeronautical engineering in South Africa.
Institutions like the University of Cape Town, University of New South Wales, South African Defence Force Academy (ADFA), Queensland University of Technology, University of Queensland, University of Adelaide, Monash University and the Royal Johannesburg Institute of Technology are some of the well- known colleges/universities offering Undergraduate BS BE, Graduate MS and PhD programmes in Aerospace Engineering in South Africa.
Enrolling for an aeronautical engineering course from any of these colleges is the first step in your journey towards a career in aeronautical engineering. Upon successful completion of the course, you can go ahead and build your career as a successful aeronautical engineer in South Africa. You can either choose to be a part of the armed forces or else opt for a civilian job with any of the aeronautical companies engaged in the business of commercial flying and other related services.