The future of Aerospace Engineering

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QED
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The future of Aerospace Engineering

Postby QED » Fri Feb 25, 2011 8:02 am UTC

Hey guys! I'm hoping this is the right section to talk ask about Aerospace Engineering. See, I was wondering... I'm accepted to Embry Riddle in Daytona, and I'm planning on attending and to major on said major... but I don't know how the future of flight will be. I hear that those fossil fuels will run out in the next ~50 years... so it will become more expensive to run them. Will this call for more engineers to solve fuel efficiency problems? Or lay off many engineers because it'll become too expensive to run planes and we'll just switch to trains for transportation in a country? Planes/spacecraft are pretty damn awesome but if there isn't going to be much more development for them, I'm just going to go to mechanical engineering. Don't want to be jobless. When I go to Embry, I plan on paying the first year and joining ROTC for the last ~3 years (did I mention they'reir tuition is like 30 k?). I think that'll give me more of an advantage when I'm looking for a job. I'll be something like commissioner and have to serve for like 5 years after (which I don't mind doing... I think... I hear the worst part is keeping your self neat and clean... umm, really? That's not so hard...). I'm not a genius but I can do it... I know any engineering major is going to take a lot of hard work.

It was suggested to me that I try to ask Aerospace Engineers this question, and thus here I am. Hoping I can find one in this forum... I'll try to look for other engineers as well, but I should start some where. So, any aerospace nerds/geeks out there that can help? :D
Last edited by QED on Sat Feb 26, 2011 1:23 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

Korrente
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Re: The future of Aerospace Engineering

Postby Korrente » Fri Feb 25, 2011 6:26 pm UTC

*Resisting urge to bash Embry Riddle*

Aerospace isn't going anywhere. You're going into a fun and interesting field and there will always be a demand for engineers. You're living through the first steps of commercial space flight, do you really think people are just going to give up because fuels might be changing? Do you think the military is going to give up on its air superiority doctrine because Jet A is more expensive? They're the ones leading the charge on biofuels and they're going to need new aircraft and new engines eventually. GA will be moving away from 100LL soon to either biofuels or electric engines, so there's a whole new world of design challenges just dealing with electric motors. I could go on and on but I think you get my point.

Also, as an engineer you should get your pilots license if you aren't already planning on it. It will really help you when you start building these machines to understand what the pilot thinks when he flies them.

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Eseell
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Re: The future of Aerospace Engineering

Postby Eseell » Fri Feb 25, 2011 9:30 pm UTC

I did AE at the ERAU Prescott campus and it was awesome. I think you'll have a good time at Daytona. If you get flight lessons as Korrente advised, consider taking them from a private CFI; ERAU will make you pay through the nose for even the most basic flight instruction on top of what you're already paying. I'm not sure how that works out with a ROTC scholarship, though. You should really look further into how the ROTC program, officer commission, and time commitment works, but starting your career in the military can certainly be helpful. If you can make it through the program then it is a guaranteed job for a few years and can give you some additional direction and useful connections.

Although you asked specifically about flight, I doubt that there will ever be a lack of need for engineers that specialize in fluid mechanics. Aerospace engineers fit well in fields like automotive design and weapon development - of missiles, rockets, and regular old bullets as well as vehicles. Some guys did a project on the aerodynamic properties of golf clubs in our wind tunnels lab. There are applications for aerodynamics all over the place. There's also a lot of overlap between a BS in Mech. E. and AE, so earning your degree in AE doesn't mean that you're only allowed to work on lifting bodies, rockets, and turbines for the rest of your life (although that does sound pretty great, eh?). Heck, lots of engineers, including myself, aren't doing work related to our degrees. If you're worried about your prospects decades from now, your undergraduate degree is hardly going to matter by then. You'll have an entire career of experience that will be far more relevant.

My advice is to do what you want for now. Once you've got a degree in * Engineering, you've ticked that box for a lot of employers. As long as you complete your core requirements then you'll get what you need in terms of math, physics, and design to do 95% of entry level engineering jobs in the mechanical fields. In many cases, the most relevant part of your engineering degree isn't whether you took extra classes in materials or stab and control, but what you learn in terms of design processes and project management. Can you take a requirement from your employer - a problem - and turn out a workable solution on time and on budget? That's the core of engineering, IMO. As my Engr 101 prof said, "If you're here because you want to build things, you're in the wrong program. Engineers solve problems."

I will say this about getting a job as an aerospace engineer and, really, getting a job in general: I wish I had done my research on job prospects before graduation. Do your research on prospective employers. I got a job at a major aerospace company fresh out of college, and the way they treated their engineers was depressing. The starting pay was very good, but promotion prospects were poor, layoffs were frequent at all levels, and raises were non-existent while management kept "re-organizing" in ways that seemed only to benefit themselves. A lot of the older engineers were very jaded and disillusioned and were only holding on for retirement packages. My friends who still work there have not had significant raises in the last four years.

It can't possibly be that way across the whole field, but I switched fields because my job satisfaction was in the toilet and I wanted to stay in the same geographical area.
"Math is hard work and it occupies your mind -- and it doesn't hurt to learn all you can of it, no matter what rank you are; everything of any importance is founded on mathematics." - Robert A. Heinlein

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Solt
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Re: The future of Aerospace Engineering

Postby Solt » Sat Feb 26, 2011 1:13 am UTC

Eseell wrote:I got a job at a major aerospace company fresh out of college, and the way they treated their engineers was depressing.


Would you mind performing a public service and naming the company?

Eseell wrote: I doubt that there will ever be a lack of need for engineers that specialize in fluid mechanics.


I like how you imply that Aerospace Engineers are really just fluids experts. That's not even close to true. Aerospace engineers are mechanical engineers who have a strong preference regarding the type of problem they want to solve. That means they can specialize in aerodynamics, or structures, or thermo, or controls, or dynamics, or systems engineering, etc.

So as an aerospace engineer, you'll be getting a skill set that's pretty broadly applicable. Once you become one of those guys who can do math, your career options become pretty broad. In short, I wouldn't worry about running out of opportunities. You may not be able to work on the problems you want to in the future, but there will always be a place for your skills.

Korrente wrote:Also, as an engineer you should get your pilots license if you aren't already planning on it. It will really help you when you start building these machines to understand what the pilot thinks when he flies them.


That's pretty shaky advice in my opinion. I don't see the correlation, in general. Maybe the controls engineers could be enlightened by knowing such things, but I don't see why a structural engineer or power plant engineer cares how pilots think. Not to mention that the future is unmanned.
"Welding was faster, cheaper and, in theory,
produced a more reliable product. But sailors do
not float on theory, and the welded tankers had a
most annoying habit of splitting in two."
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Eseell
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Re: The future of Aerospace Engineering

Postby Eseell » Sat Feb 26, 2011 1:33 am UTC

Solt wrote:
Eseell wrote:I got a job at a major aerospace company fresh out of college, and the way they treated their engineers was depressing.


Would you mind performing a public service and naming the company?
I would prefer not to do so too explicitly, but it's the one that's famous for its consumer electronics (thermostats) and could "bee better." They have major propulsion plants in this area.

I doubt that there will ever be a lack of need for engineers that specialize in fluid mechanics.


I like how you imply that Aerospace Engineers are really just fluids experts.

The primary difference between a mechanical engineering education and one in aerospace engineering is more coursework in fluids on the aerospace side, so yes, I would say that's a valid characterization if QED is worried about his job prospects compared to a potential major in mechanical engineering. I feel like I addressed the broad applicability of the skill set in the rest of the post.
"Math is hard work and it occupies your mind -- and it doesn't hurt to learn all you can of it, no matter what rank you are; everything of any importance is founded on mathematics." - Robert A. Heinlein

Korrente
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Re: The future of Aerospace Engineering

Postby Korrente » Sat Feb 26, 2011 4:15 am UTC

Eseell wrote: consider taking them from a private CFI; ERAU will make you pay through the nose


Yeah, don't go to ER to learn to fly. Get instruction from one of the poor guys who did, though.

Solt wrote:
Korrente wrote:Also, as an engineer you should get your pilots license if you aren't already planning on it. It will really help you when you start building these machines to understand what the pilot thinks when he flies them.


That's pretty shaky advice in my opinion. I don't see the correlation, in general. Maybe the controls engineers could be enlightened by knowing such things, but I don't see why a structural engineer or power plant engineer cares how pilots think. Not to mention that the future is unmanned.


There's a lot of development about to hit GA and Corporate, and probably Airline, and I feel like they're probably never going to be unmanned. Not in the span of his career anyway. And who knows, he may end up working for Cessna or Diamond. Obviously a private license isn't going to help if he works at Airbus but hey, maybe it's a one-up on the competition for his resume. Besides, it's fun.
Last edited by Korrente on Wed Mar 02, 2011 4:43 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Solt
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Re: The future of Aerospace Engineering

Postby Solt » Sat Feb 26, 2011 8:52 am UTC

Eseell wrote:The primary difference between a mechanical engineering education and one in aerospace engineering is more coursework in fluids on the aerospace side,



Must be different in your part of the country then. Out here an "Aerospace Engineering" degree wouldn't be worth shit if it just focused on aerodynamics. There's no air in space. Systems engineering, mission planning, spaceflight mechanics, rocket propulsion- all standard for an AE degree. I suppose I'll bow out of the discussion now that it's clear that I live in a suspended reality where NASA and the DoD determine what kind of business will be coming in. That's clearly not what the OP is talking about.
"Welding was faster, cheaper and, in theory,

produced a more reliable product. But sailors do

not float on theory, and the welded tankers had a

most annoying habit of splitting in two."

-J.W. Morris

QED
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Re: The future of Aerospace Engineering

Postby QED » Sun Feb 27, 2011 2:10 am UTC

Thank you all for the comments! :) I think I'll stay with this major in mind for now.

Korrente wrote:Also, as an engineer you should get your pilots license if you aren't already planning on it. It will really help you when you start building these machines to understand what the pilot thinks when he flies them.


I've considered that option, and I'm still not too sure if I'll do it. I think you have to have good vision to be able to get a license... mine isn't really that good...

Eseell wrote:I did AE at the ERAU Prescott campus and it was awesome. I think you'll have a good time at Daytona. If you get flight lessons as Korrente advised, consider taking them from a private CFI


I did a quick search for CFI and couldn't find what the acronym is for (closest thing I found is http://www.janes.com/articles/Janes-International-ABC-Aerospace-Directory/Cobham-Flight-Inspection--CFI-United-Kingdom.html but I'm going to assume it's a private airport?)

Eseell wrote:I will say this about getting a job as an aerospace engineer and, really, getting a job in general: I wish I had done my research on job prospects before graduation. Do your research on prospective employers.


Major aerospace firms that I know of: Boeing, Lockheed Martin, I could go into the Airforce... I just know that I don't think I'd like to work for a private firm.

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Eseell
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Re: The future of Aerospace Engineering

Postby Eseell » Sun Feb 27, 2011 2:14 am UTC

CFI is Certified Flight Instructor - someone who can teach you to fly.
"Math is hard work and it occupies your mind -- and it doesn't hurt to learn all you can of it, no matter what rank you are; everything of any importance is founded on mathematics." - Robert A. Heinlein

Korrente
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Re: The future of Aerospace Engineering

Postby Korrente » Sun Feb 27, 2011 2:55 am UTC

If you wear glasses or contacts, you can get a first class medical (provided you pass in other areas), which is top of the line. You only need a third class to be a private pilot, and it takes some hard work to be disqualified for a third class. The air force requires 20/20 vision from their fighter pilots but that's it.

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Re: The future of Aerospace Engineering

Postby QED » Mon Feb 28, 2011 1:29 am UTC

Eseell wrote:CFI is Certified Flight Instructor - someone who can teach you to fly.

Oh, I see.

Korrente wrote:If you wear glasses or contacts, you can get a first class medical (provided you pass in other areas), which is top of the line. You only need a third class to be a private pilot, and it takes some hard work to be disqualified for a third class. The air force requires 20/20 vision from their fighter pilots but that's it.

Ah, well, only time can tell for now.

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Re: The future of Aerospace Engineering

Postby Slpee » Wed Mar 09, 2011 10:33 pm UTC

Korrente wrote:*Resisting urge to bash Embry Riddle*



Hey would you mind elaborating on this a bit? I am currently a high school junior and Embry-Riddle is one of the schools I am looking at for an Aerospace Engineering degree, so any information i can get about E-R is very helpful.
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Re: The future of Aerospace Engineering

Postby gorcee » Tue Mar 15, 2011 7:45 pm UTC

There will always be a market for Aerospace Engineering.

However, the majority of people in Aerospace don't work on designing new airplanes. Lockheed, for example, hires more computer scientists than Aeronautical Engineers. There is a decent amount of R&D that is taking place in the aero industry, but it is not necessarily of the type of thing that's geared towards designing the next great airplane. Instead, the focus is on things like making aircraft cheaper, more efficient, more reliable, etc. There's a lot of work being done on control systems, corrosion resistance, aeroelasticity, and the like. Often times, the work being done is designed to reduce maintenance costs of existing fleet aircraft.

I work for a small business that is attached to the aero industry. I was originally an Aero/Mech. Engineering major, but switched to Applied Math before I graduated. While big companies do a lot of hiring in the industry, there is a thriving and active small business component to the aerospace industry on all levels. These companies often avoid some of the more onerous elements of working for a big business, like cubicle farms, lack of flex schedules, etc. The key thing to remember is: the bigger the entity, the larger the bureaucracy. Don't think that the Air Force is exempt from this.

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Re: The future of Aerospace Engineering

Postby Korrente » Thu Mar 17, 2011 7:55 am UTC

Slpee wrote:
Korrente wrote:*Resisting urge to bash Embry Riddle*



Hey would you mind elaborating on this a bit? I am currently a high school junior and Embry-Riddle is one of the schools I am looking at for an Aerospace Engineering degree, so any information i can get about E-R is very helpful.



I go to MTSU. ER is a big rival for a lot of Aerospace competitions. The usual story around here is "I looked at MTSU and ER, and ER was too expensive." Especially for the pro-pilot program which I'm doing. ER has the same planes and I'd be willing to bet the same curriculum as a Part 141 school so there is really nothing to justify the cost. Now in Engineering...that's different. ER has a great engineering department (I don't know about their program besides the generally positive hearsay, though), I really liked their machining labs and equipment. To be honest I don't think MT really compares to ER simply because we don't have the facilities to do so. No comparable big machine labs or rapid prototyping and such. We're much more heavily invested in maintenance, pilot and ATC training.


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