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air force engineer

air force engineer

air force engineer

i am tring to find out more about aerospace engineers in the air force and was wondering if anyone could tell me what its like. I saw a post earlier saying most air force engineers end up in management positions really early and dont get very much design experience and wondered if someone could verify this because im more into the design of aircraft than anything else.

RE: air force engineer

I would have to agree with that statement - "air force engineers end up in management positions"  I think you would be better off working for Lockheed Martin, Boeing, or Raytheon if you want to do actual design work.

RE: air force engineer

The Air Force does not directly design aircraft.  This is done by the contractors listed above and others.


RE: air force engineer

Well, it so happens that I am an Air Force engineer-- Department of the Air Force (DAF) that is.

There are two kinds of Air Force engineers. DAF and USAF (Active Duty).

If you want to stay a civilian, go DAF. DAF engineers are civil servants (just like NASA or the IRS), and work on USAF projects. Project types range from commodity purchases (how to and what to buy to keep airplanes flying), to repairs (airplanes get hit by trucks or ground fire and need to be fixed), to reverse engineering (a 30 year old design needs to be updated to keep it flying), to basic science (at Air Force Research Labs), to safety investigations, to policy setting. Yes, most of your big projects will end up with some type of contracting--but if you are of the right mind (if you like the big picture, want to make sure dozens of major assemblies all work together, want to work hand-in-hand with pilots and gunners on aircraft, catch on to wide varieties of new designs quickly) then this is also fun. You generally won't be stuck on one actuator of one aircraft for months, and you generally will have a broad range of experiences looking at lots of parts of the airplane. No, you will generally not become a CATIA or FLAGRO expert. Other than that the only down side to being a civil servant aerospace engineers is that it is not a particularly mobile career--you can move between USAF centers across the country, but it is difficult; however, know that the Chief of Staff of the Air Force is trying to change that mobility problem.

Active Duty USAF aerospace engineers do much the same as civil servants, but they move around much more than the civil servants do. Yes, after about 8 years, a typical military engineering career will start to take on more program management. But there are also opportunities within the military to be flight test engineers (which has got to be the world's most fun job), space launch operators, and even to career broaden into maintenance or operations. Active Duty personnel can retire after 20 years (vs 30 for Civil Service), they can deploy to forward locations and fix aircraft supporting ongoing operations, and they wear uniforms--but that is about all of the difference between an active duty and a civil service Air Force engineer.

More to the point is the mission. You have never felt as good about your job as when you have shared a beer with a pilot of an aircraft that made a real difference in the Global War on Terror, and when he starts to list and personally compliment you on the many modifications and repairs that he knew you engineered. Or when he shows you pictures of his crew using your systems in close support of US soldiers under fire. Or when you and your team rush design a modification that top people in DC highlight on TV as a success story. You can't do it for the pay or to rise up the corporate ladder, but if the USAF Core Values (Integrity, Service Before Self, and Excellence in all we Do) define you, this is it. Even on my most frustrated days I have known a level of job satisfaction far beyond many of my peers.

Good luck in your decision making.

RE: air force engineer

I was just asking because I am majoring in aerospace engineering and probably getting and air force ROTC scholarship so naturally i would have to join the air force afterwards.Thanks for your help though and i was really looking forward to actually designing things but i guess this would be good to.

RE: air force engineer

I work at AFRL at WPAFB and we have few guys in our branch who just completed their bachelors and were ROTC. There first AF assignments were here. They work in the applications portion of our branch(Computational Sciences).Most of the civil servants who work here have PhD's and do research but the guys who are Air Force(either ROTC or Air Force Academy) have only bachelors.

RE: air force engineer

so i guess they usually  start new engineers off in research at one of thier labs then?

RE: air force engineer

I don't know the process and I'm sure not all get sent to a lab but I'm guessing that if you voice an interest in something they will try and place you. The kids probably said they were interested in CFD hence the placement. The ones in our branch aren't really doing research..they basically run CFD codes on problems that get sent their way via other more design oriented branches here.

RE: air force engineer

If you like designing stuff and seeing it fly then stay well clear of the military as an employer because they don't design things. You need to vector in on private companies or government funded advanced projects. Forget civil, you will just be a very small gear in a very large machine - civil is worse for this than military because the basic layout of most civil stuff is all done now. You will just end up turning the handle and tossing the result over the office partition to the next guy in the chain.

I recomend military contractors, the big ones you know. The UAV/UCAV area seems to be offering the most interesting design work at the moment. The machines are much smaller and cheaper than the big stuff and the design/test cycle turns around very quickly.

Hope this helps.


RE: air force engineer

thanks but since im going into rotc to get a scholarship i believe steering clear of the military is not an option so im just trying to make the most of it and im also curious about aeronautical as well as astronautical engineering in case anybody has any comments about that field as well.

RE: air force engineer

Air Force? What Air Force?

It's just possible that you are referring to the US Air Force, not to one of the other 100 or so Air Forces round the world.

I suspect that the Chinese, Australian or Israeli Air Force may be slightly different to USAF.

RE: air force engineer

he said he was doing ROTC..how many other countries have

RE: air force engineer


Remember ROTC, especially in the USAF, is very heavy on the R - RESERVE - part. I know many people who have gone AFROTC, had their college paid for, and never served a day beyone their reserve commitment (1weekend/2weeks), due to the fact that they were hired by one of the Majors (Northrop, LMAO, Lockeed, etc.etc.etc.). You could also get into a smaller company easier, since the Security Clearance, generally is already in the works, soon after graduation. In any of these companies you may get a chance to design or engineer (note the difference) innovation.

Good luck with your career/school/etc... but remember, just because you are AFROTC does not mean you are stuck with an air force career. Even if you do go active duty, your commitment is just for a few years, and your aerospace career will be much much longer.

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