Exploring Manufacturing CareersFlight Engineer

In our educational series, we explore different careers in manufacturing.

Starting out as an experimental airmail service commercial aviation makes possible to travel faster without sacrificing safety. As an expert with a broad technical and mechanical knowledge about aircraft systems and performance the flight engineer or second officer monitors and sets major airplane systems that include fuel electrics hydraulic ice and rain protection fire and overheat protection oxygen powered flying controls pressurization and air conditioning. During the flight flight engineers monitor aircraft flight path altitude and speed as well as spend a significant portion of their time to cross check the pilot selections. They are also responsible for pre-flight and post-flight aircraft inspections to ensure that the balance and weight of the aircraft is within standard calculations and the center of gravity is within the allowable limits.

Aside from reviewing the weather patterns and flight course to control how much fuel should be loaded on the airplane the flight engineer also records the fuel consumption during the flight and document the performance of the engines. Once the plane is in-flight the engineer advises the pilot or captain of any problems. If there are any problems noted during the flight the engineer should report them to the mechanics department. The flight engineer is also responsible for turning in the flight log of the trip.

Although modern technology automated the common tasks of flight engineers on new aircrafts the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires that most three- and four-engine airplanes and two-engine jet airplanes include a second officer resulting to major airlines employing flight engineers to fly with its several large planes. Usually based in large cities that have major airports most flight engineers reside in California Texas Illinois Florida and New York.

Why Become a Flight Engineer

Flight engineers should secure certificates and obtain a commercial pilot license from the FAA. Considerable training would be necessary for any aspiring pilots and flight engineers could gain a good deal of flight experience through the military or other types of civilian piloting to enter the regional or major airlines. For airline pilots advancement depends on a system of seniority defined in collective bargaining contracts. Flight engineers could aim for first officer positions usually after one to five years of experience and first officers could become captains after five to fifteen years.

With an estimated 75760 employed airline pilots copilots and flight engineers Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a seven percent decline for job opportunities from 2012 to 2022 which would be slower than the average for all occupations due to the growing utilization of computerized flight management systems. Several airlines are ordering the newer plane models which do not require flight engineers to replace its existing planes. Salary reports indicate that the mean annual wage for this occupation would be roughly $131760 as of May 2014.

Flight Engineer Work Environment

The work involves a certain amount of risk but new procedures and technology make airplane travel safer every day. Airline pilots must learn to cope with several work-related hazards such as fatigue and jetlag from long-distance routes. The weather and the condition of the aircraft could also contribute to unique hazards. Pilots also face the risk of hearing loss resulting from prolonged exposure to engine noise. Flight engineers like others in the airline industry have irregular schedules but steady employment. Being away from their homes much of the time they could be included on late-night cross-country and international flights.

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