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Essential skills profile

This profile contains a list of example tasks that illustrate how each of the 9 essential skills is generally performed by most workers in this occupation. The levels of complexity estimated for each task are ranked between 1 (basic) and 5 (advanced).

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Aerospace Engineers(2146)

Aerospace engineers research, design and develop aerospace vehicles, aerospace systems and their components, and perform duties related to their testing, evaluation, installation, operation and maintenance. Aerospace engineers are employed by aircraft and spacecraft manufacturers, air transport carriers, and in government and educational and research institutions.

Reading Help - Reading
  • Read comments on inspection, test and reporting forms, log book entries, and other informal text written by co-workers. (1)
  • Read e-mails from co-workers or clients scheduling, confirming or giving the minutes of meetings, teleconferences or videoconferences. (2)
  • Read user manuals when operating computerized equipment. For example, design engineers may refer to software user manuals to review specific functions or steps needed to create three-dimensional models of aerospace components. (3)
  • Refer to Air Transport, Standard Practice, Quality Assurance, Best Practices and Lessons Learned manuals and other aerospace policy documents to ensure that their designs, processes, procedures and practices are compliant with industry standards and company requirements. (3)
  • May review résumés from potential candidates for jobs in the manufacturing, testing, repair or overhaul of aerospace vehicles or parts. They read these résumés to identify candidates with work histories and educational experiences that are relevant to available jobs so that they can make sound hiring recommendations. (3)
  • Read presentations posted on boards at conferences such as those organized by the SAE Aerospace Engineering International Group or Canadian Aerospace Association. These presentations contain summaries of research rationales and designs, research methods, data analyses and interpretations, reference lists, and authorship details. They read these poster presentations to gain information related to their areas of expertise. (3)
  • Read lengthy Requests for Proposals, Flight Test Proposals and Technical Requirement Documents for projects involving the design, development or testing of aircraft, spacecraft, missiles, satellites or space-based communication systems. They read each invitation-to-tender to evaluate the technical requirements that must be met by the particular project. Based on this evaluation, they determine whether their organizations have the necessary skills sets to undertake the projects and identify options for meeting projects' requirements. (4)
  • Read reports, contracts and technical documents from various sources. For example, they may read documents from original equipment manufacturers dealing with certification, airworthiness, operation, maintenance and repair of aircraft and space vehicles. They may read these documents to evaluate and recommend parts procurement policies taking into consideration safety, quality and cost. (4)
  • Read a wide range of academic journals and trade publications such as Flight and Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology to stay abreast of new aerospace technologies related to flight testing, fluid dynamics, aerodynamics, structures, materials, navigation or communication. They select and read relevant articles to find alternative solutions to particular problems. They also refer to these articles when designing or testing aerospace vehicles, systems or components. (4)
Document use Help - Document use
  • Locate and retrieve data on forms. For example, they may scan request for change forms to locate information on design changes required. (1)
  • Read lists of project requirements embedded in Requests for Proposals, Flight Test Proposals and Technical Requirement Documents. (2)
  • Locate data on labels. For example, they refer to labels on aircraft parts to obtain information such as the part number, the manufacturer's name, the date received and the compliance code. (2)
  • Refer to schedules and resource allocation matrices to find information about the phases, activities, resources, milestones and deadlines for their projects. (2)
  • Interpret a variety of icons to navigate aerospace technology websites; access online software manuals; and search technical information about standards, methods, materials and equipment. (2)
  • Review schematic drawings of mechanical, electrical, maintenance, structural, pneumatic, hydraulic, fluid and flight control systems to understand and analyze their operation. (3)
  • Refer to drawings and diagrams in documents obtained from original equipment manufacturers. They scan these drawings to understand equipment construction and the purpose of equipment options so that they can select the equipment and options which will best suit their needs. (3)
  • Enter client, production, purchase requisition, inventory and warehousing, shipping order, delivery, repair, cost and resource usage information into forms. They may have to combine data from several sources to enter information correctly onto such electronic documents. (3)
  • Analyze graphs of variables for aircraft, space vehicles, systems or components under simulated or controlled conditions. They interpret these graphs to identify patterns in data, relationships between variables and criteria for diagnosing problems and designing systems. (4)
  • May review floor plans when setting up new pieces of equipment to perform tests on systems, models or parts to meet specific needs related to safety of flight, aircraft certification or problem investigation. They take measurements from structural and mechanical system drawings to check that the new and existing equipment can be set up efficiently. (4)
Writing Help - Writing
  • Write e-mail messages to co-workers, colleagues and clients to remind them of project due dates, ask for technical information, or respond to inquiries. (1)
  • May write brief comments into the programming code associated with simulations. These comments describe the rationale for including a particular line or sequence of code. (1)
  • Write short papers for co-workers when they return from training courses or conferences. In these papers, they summarize the content of courses or conferences and describe its relevance to their organizations. (2)
  • Write investigation reports following aircraft or spacecraft accidents or the discovery of structural, component or system failures. These reports vary in length and complexity, but each of them describes an accident or technical failure, its effects, the approach taken to identify its cause and the outcome of the investigation. (3)
  • Create and prepare specifications for the design, manufacturing, maintenance, repair or overhaul of aerospace vehicles, systems or components. These specifications comprise a detailed description of the tasks to be performed; of the materials, products, accessories, standards or processes to be used; and of other contract requirements such as the need to respect plans, permits, codes and airworthiness and safety regulations, to write instruction manuals, to provide logistical or operational support and to repair deficiencies. (4)
  • Write submissions related to their areas of expertise in responses to Requests for Proposals, Flight Test Proposals and Technical Requirement Documents. Each submission must address the key components of the request and convey complex concepts in an effective manner. The preparation of these submissions involves gathering and selecting technical descriptions from multiple sources and re-writing them for a sophisticated and knowledgeable audience, but in some instances, content must be written for the sole purpose of the request. (4)
  • May write articles for scientific journals, conference proceedings or other research publications such as the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Journal. The articles usually involve explaining research protocols, describing the difficulties encountered in conducting experiments and the scientific principles used to analyze data collected. The writing must present a detailed discussion of results obtained and comment on their significance. For example, an aerospace engineer might report on models which have been developed to assist in the design of the fuel system for a new aircraft. (5)
Numeracy Help - Numeracy Money Math
  • Calculate totals on shipping orders and purchase requisitions, multiplying the amount of each type of unit shipped or purchased by its unit price. (2)
  • Prepare expense reports for out of town business travel, taking into account the number of days and kilometres travelled, a per kilometre rate, the chargeable unit costs for the room and meals and the applicable taxes. (2)
Scheduling, Budgeting & Accounting Math
  • Compute unit production costs. They factor in the time and hourly rates of employees, quantities and prices of materials, and overhead to obtain the cost of each unit produced. (3)
  • Establish and monitor project budgets for large development and testing projects. They ensure that work paid for has been accomplished and that expenses incurred for labour, materials and equipment are fully covered by budgets. (3)
Measurement and Calculation Math
  • Calculate distances between waypoints in navigation models. (2)
  • Calculate the rotational speed to determine the inertial force of a gas-turbine engine. (3)
  • Plan the placement of new equipment using scale drawings. This involves measuring scale distances, converting them to actual distances and calculating areas, volumes and perimeters. (3)
  • Use trigonometric constants to calculate angles. For instance, they may use trigonometric constants to calculate the bend radius for a piece of flat metal. (4)
  • Use advanced mathematical methods to verify that specific parts of aerospace vehicles are strong enough to withstand design load conditions. For example, they may use mathematical modelling to determine whether a wing could withstand expected air loads during flight and calculate whether a seat would stay fastened to an aircraft during a crash. (5)
Data Analysis Math
  • Compare the power output of aerospace engines over multiple test runs. (1)
  • Compare the technical capabilities of different hardware and software solutions. (2)
  • Calculate the average costs of labour and materials over several productions. (3)
  • Analyse performance data for aircraft, systems or components under controlled or simulated conditions. They interpret quantitative data and graphs generated by simulation software to identify patterns in data, relationships between variables and criteria for diagnosing problems. (4)
  • Develop and analyse mathematical models which predict the strength and durability of aerospace components. For example, an engineer may create a mathematical method to predict the life of an aircraft wing and then validate its predictive ability through physical testing. (5)
  • Use advanced mathematical methods to analyse dynamic aircraft systems. For example, they may determine load sharing between several airframe components or analyse the loads on different joints to identify the types and thicknesses of construction materials needed. (5)
  • Identify optimal strategies, potential sources of bias and methodological techniques needed to monitor variables in product stress tests, wind tunnel tests, structural tests, dynamic tests, durability and damage tolerance tests, complete airframe static tests, flight tests, air load surveys, ground vibrations tests and other experiments. Once test data have been collected, they perform statistical analysis to measure the confidence level of results. (5)
Numerical Estimation
  • Estimate the amount of time required to do the physical setup for a flight control system based on experience. (1)
  • Estimate the number of person-days which should be assigned to site maintenance in their budgets. Estimates are based on past requirements but there must be an allowance given for unexpected equipment failures. (2)
  • Estimate how closely their models approximate the performance of aircraft vehicles, systems or components. Many factors are involved in these estimates and a fair degree of precision is required to ensure the validity of results. (3)
Oral communication Help - Oral communication
  • Talk to suppliers about price quotes and technical information for new equipment. (1)
  • Interact with subordinates such as technicians, technologists, tradespeople, maintenance workers and equipment operators. They assign new tasks, review completed tasks and enquire about the status of ongoing work activities. (2)
  • Meet with senior management or clients to discuss the availability of funds and resources for projects; to present project plans and deliverables and to obtain guidance, recommendations or approvals. They may also meet to negotiate deadlines or budgets for projects. (3)
  • Participate in aerospace industry meetings with colleagues from manufacturing companies, research institutes, educational institutions, consulting firms, national and provincial professional associations or guilds, and government departments. They attend these meetings to discuss business opportunities and innovative uses for new and existing aerospace technologies. (3)
  • Meet team members individually to discuss annual performance appraisals. At these meetings, they review employees' work objectives and the extent to which targets have been met. They commend successes and identify areas for improvement. They may also present recommendations for other job assignments, further training and salary increases. (3)
  • Participate in meetings with co-workers to discuss invitations to tender, organizational policies, testing processes, equipment, structures, materials, navigation, aerodynamics, communication, structural dynamics and a wide range of other topics. At these meetings, they may be asked to present technical information about testing techniques they have designed, manufacturing processes they have developed or papers they have written. (3)
  • Lead problem solving sessions with small and large groups of employees. The aerospace engineer's role is to monitor and support the group and, using a variety of exercises and settings, analyze problems and develop solutions. At the end of each session, the engineer facilitates the synthesis of information and guides the group in the development of a series of recommendations which can be presented to clients, plant managers and co-workers. The engineer's team building and management skills may be evaluated on the success of these meetings. (4)
Thinking Help - Thinking Problem Solving
  • Recognize that they do not have the skills or knowledge to complete a design or analysis activity on their own. They consult with co-workers and others who have expertise in the subject area to assist in completing the activity. (1)
  • Realize there are skill shortages within their project teams. They meet with senior management to outline the issue and discuss whether or not funding will be made available to recruit team members with the expertise needed. (2)
  • Discover that junior engineers on their teams are no longer 'on task.' They work with these employees to identify where the problems started and then to guide them in the proper direction. They monitor work closely to ensure that junior engineers stay on task and on target. (3)
  • Realize they do not have all the data required to define components and related operating conditions. They identify the information that is missing and then search the literature for techniques to develop or to estimate missing data. They may find ways of extrapolating existing data using previous designs so that they can define the components without the expense of developing the additional data through testing. (3)
  • Are unable to find Canadian sources for specialized equipment which is needed immediately. They meet with their purchasing departments to discuss technical specifications and may assist in identifying appropriate suppliers and arranging for the fastest possible delivery methods. They may also act as the technical liaison with the supplier during the procurement process. (3)
  • Receive complaints from clients who discover technical failures with aerospace vehicles, systems or components which they have delivered. They recall the products and test them to identify why the failures are occurring, what modifications are required, and what protocol can be used to test the validity of any changes made. They may have to perform major overhauls or re-design the products in order to resolve the problems. (4)
Decision Making
  • Decide whether particular parts of aerospace vehicles, systems or components will be repaired or changed. They inspect each part flagged for repair, assess the extent of the damage and determine what steps will be taken based on safety, feasibility and cost. (2)
  • Decide which jobs to assign to engineers, technicians and technologists on their teams. They consider individual strengths and weaknesses, work experience and ability to meet deadlines. (2)
  • Decide which statistical analysis techniques to use. They consider the theoretical assumptions, strengths and limitations of each technique, and the type, quality and completeness of available data. (2)
  • Recommend changes to existing software programs to address unique situations in simulations and tests. Each recommendation is based on a review of existing programs and of the objectives, constraints and technical requirements of the particular simulations. (2)
  • Recommend or decide to bid on particular projects involving the design, development or testing of aircraft, spacecraft, missiles, satellites or space-based communication systems. They review invitations-to-tender to evaluate projects' technical requirements and to determine whether their organizations have the time and skills sets needed to write solid submissions, be competitive and eventually bring the proposed projects to fruition. (3)
Critical Thinking
  • Assess the adequacy of candidates for jobs in the manufacturing, testing, repair or overhaul of aerospace vehicles or components. They review resumes to identify relevant work history and education, interview potential candidates, and analyse qualifications using evaluation guidelines or grids. (2)
  • Evaluate the feasibility of engineering designs from safety, quality and cost perspectives. Aerospace engineers work with multi-disciplinary teams of experts to assess the technical soundness of designs and the extent to which each is likely to meet customers' requirements. They estimate and analyse costs to ensure that designs fit the proposed budgets. (3)
  • May assess the appropriateness of the setup and configuration of new equipment. Their assessments are based upon a review of drawings representing the equipment layouts; on estimations of expected downtimes; on detailed analyses of how current procedures will be changed; and on an investigation of how equipment users and maintenance employees will be affected. (3)
  • Assess compliance with airworthiness standards for the stability, manoeuvrability, performance and safety of aerospace vehicles. For example, they use computational fluid dynamics and aerodynamic wing and surface design techniques to evaluate aircraft aerodynamics, stability, performance and control features. They conduct stress tests to confirm that aircraft structure can withstand all aerodynamic loads. They perform wind tunnel tests and simulations to investigate flight characteristics. (4)
  • Evaluate the adequacy of measures proposed following aircraft or spacecraft accidents or the discovery of structural, component or system failures. When such an accident or failure occurs, they identify possible root causes and participate with their team in the investigations. Once the investigations have been conducted, they review all data and supporting documents to ensure that all factors have been evaluated and the sources of the failure have been identified. Finally, they confirm that corrective actions are taken and preventative measures put in place. (4)
  • May assess whether scientific articles written by staff members are ready for publication. For instance, an aerospace engineer may review an article on models which have been developed to assist in the design of the fuel system for a new aircraft. The engineer evaluates the article based on the soundness of the methodological approach, the validity of research outcomes, the consistency of explanations, the clarity of text and the appropriateness of the conclusions reached. (4)
Job Task Planning and Organizing

Own Job Planning and Organizing

Aerospace engineers work in a dynamic environment with many conflicting demands on their time. Their work is team-oriented so that they must integrate their own tasks and work schedules with those of a team of experts in disciplines such as welding, thermal spray, aerospace cleaning and mechanical finishing. Their ability to work on several projects at the same time and manage priorities is critical to their jobs. Equipment breakdowns, emergencies and changing corporate priorities make frequent prioritizing and sequencing of job tasks necessary. (4)

Planning and Organizing for Others

Aerospace engineers may contribute expertise to long-term and strategic planning for their organizations and play a central role in organizing, planning and scheduling day-to-day operations. They are also responsible for training and assigning tasks to junior engineers, technicians and technologists who assist them in the manufacturing, maintenance, repair and modification of aerospace products or parts. (4)

Significant Use of Memory
  • Remember where they have stored information on their computers.
  • Remember procedures, tests and calculation results for day-to-day team interactions.
  • Recall the names and areas of expertise of the many engineers, scientists, technicians and technologists working with them to facilitate communication.
Finding Information
  • Find expertise for upcoming projects by asking co-workers. (2)
  • Refer to technical and user manuals to find operating instructions and specifications for equipment. (2)
  • Find information about past Non Conformance Report incidents by searching internal databases. (2)
  • Find information about industry standards and company requirements in policy, procedures, and standards manuals. (3)
  • Find solutions to particular problems related to flight testing, aerodynamics, structures, materials, navigation and communication by consulting technical libraries, websites, academic journals and trade publications. They need to analyse, synthesize and integrate information from a wide range of sources, including the Internet and Intranets, to develop innovative solutions. (4)
Digital technology Help - Digital technology
  • Use word processing software. For example, they use word processing software to write proposals for the design and development of aircraft, spacecraft, missiles, satellites or space-based communication systems. To create these proposals, they import tables and graphics from other applications and use formatting features such as page numbering, heading levels, indexes, columns and, occasionally, footnotes. (3)
  • Use database software. For example, they may develop Access databases to create document, drawing or incident tracking systems and to store and retrieve testing, process or production data. (3)
  • Use spreadsheet software. For example, they use programs like Excel to create scheduling and budgeting spreadsheets, monitor the progress of project activities and tasks and track project expenditures. They may also use Excel to analyze data and perform repetitive calculations. For example, an engineer may set up a spreadsheet to calculate interface loads between components and the structure of an aerospace vehicle. (3)
  • Use communications software. For example, they exchange e-mail and electronic files with clients, colleagues and co-workers on their distribution lists. (3)
  • Use Internet browser software. For example, they use Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator to complete registration forms for online news bulletins; browse aerospace technology websites; access online software manuals; and search technical information, standards, methods, materials and equipment. (3)
  • Use project management software. For example, they use Project to control their whole portfolio of projects; produce Gantt charts; identify underperforming projects, trends and problem areas; assess resource efficiency; monitor cycle times; and determine recruitment needs. (3)
  • Use delivery management, inventory management and warehousing software. For example, they use SAP and Trackit-Pro to track deliveries and inventories of materials, as well as availability and resource usage by type of employee. (3)
  • May use statistical analysis software. For example, they may use software like Statistical Process Control (SPC), Statistica or MatLab to create statistical designs for experiments, to monitor variables in testing procedures, and to calculate means, medians, standard deviations and confidence intervals. (4)
  • Use computer-assisted design, manufacturing and machining. For example, they use AutoCAD, Inventor, CATIA, ProEng and Aviation Prototype Builder to review technical drawings of equipment, create three-dimensional models of aerospace vehicles or construct working prototypes of flight components. (4)
  • Use graphics software. For example, they design presentations for management or clients about new aerospace technologies and products. To create these presentations, they may, for example, import graphs drawn with Project, pictures prepared with Photoshop, and spreadsheet tables generated with Excel. (4)
  • Use specialized and industry-specific simulation and modeling software. For example, they may use STAGE HeliSim to create rotary wing flight simulations and test aircraft design or performance under controlled conditions. They may also use NASTRAN to calculate failures of different parts as a result of applied loads. (4)
  • May do programming and systems software design. For example, they may use C, C++ or Visual Basic to write or modify programs to simulate the performance of aircraft, space vehicles, components and systems. For instance, an engineer may write a program to re-format raw data from the HeliSim flight model and display realistic navigational co-ordinates during simulations. (5)
Additional information Help - Additional information Other Essential Skills:

Working with Others

Aerospace engineers perform some tasks independently but more generally they work with or lead a team of technicians, technologists, other engineers and scientists. They may work independently when creating prototypes or conducting computer simulations of aerospace vehicles, systems or components, but most other tasks are carried out jointly with team members. They coordinate their work with experts from a variety of disciplines such as welding, thermal spray, aerospace cleaning and mechanical finishing. They may collaborate with manufacturers, research institutes, educational institutions, consulting firms, professional associations and government departments to share technology intelligence and innovations. They supervise technicians, technologists and other engineers in the manufacturing, repair and overhaul of aerospace products or parts. (3)

Continuous Learning

Aerospace engineers are required to continually update their skills and knowledge of aerospace vehicles, systems and components to keep up with technological progress in such areas as flight testing, aerodynamics, structures, materials, navigation or communication. On a day-to-day basis, they acquire new learning by discussing with co-workers, colleagues and suppliers and by reading information found in scientific journals, newsletters, magazines, textbooks, CD-ROMs and websites, as well as in research reports and governmental publications. (4)

Aerospace engineers are governed by the engineering society or guild of the province in which they practice. They may be required to develop their own learning plan and attend conferences, seminars, workshops or university courses on topics such as space and satellite design, structural repairs or flight control systems. (4)

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