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Entering the Field of Aerospace engineering by getting an AME (Canada)

Entering the Field of Aerospace engineering by getting an AME (Canada)

Entering the Field of Aerospace engineering by getting an AME (Canada)

Hi all,

I am a mechanical engineering student who wanted to get his foot in the door of the aerospace/aeronautical engineering field once i graduate next year. I unfortunately didn't have an opportunity to work during my degree in the field but in my last year, I will be specializing in aerodynamic related courses, such as: aerodynamics, aircraft structural analysis, Computational fluid dynamics and heat transfer, etc.

My question is, would getting an aircraft maintenance engineering license help me enter the field (since I don't have the experience to back me). When looking at entry level jobs, a lot of them want 3 or 5 years of experience as a requirement. I'm just trying to plan out the steps towards getting into this field which has been my goal since the start of my degree. Any wise words would be much appreciated.

Have a great day :)

RE: Entering the Field of Aerospace engineering by getting an AME (Canada)

An AME license opens some doors, but to some extent closes some.

If you work as an engineer in the industry, your AME license doesn't really gain you anything (other than a view of the real world, which is of course very useful).

But if you want to work as a mechanic, then your AME is fundamentally required (but your B.Eng isn't and you won't really be working as an engineer ... you'll be implementing other people's engineering, to a large extent). Sure you can do some work (very simple repairs) on small planes as an AME, but nothing (I think) on anything larger than a single engine recreational airplane.

another day in paradise, or is paradise one day closer ?

RE: Entering the Field of Aerospace engineering by getting an AME (Canada)

To use a very Canadian phrase: two solitudes.

I think the AME license will be a better way to gain relevant WORK experience once you have it, and use it for a number of years. That work experience as a licensed mechanic will be of value as you get established in life, and gain an appreciation for the kind of work you like to do and what you are best at doing. If that experience justifies considering a switch, a few years later, to a more engineering or design role, then bear in mind that a decade could have gone by. Here are a few more things to consider:
Academic knowledge fades with time if it's not used. Your aero and stress analysis knowledge will atrophy. Furthermore, if you have picked up any CAD skills, by the time 10 years go by, that experience will be obsolete (at least in the eyes of anyone planning to hire you).

Some corporate cultures can deal with people who don't fit in neat little boxes, some can't. It is very difficult to figure out which ones are which, from the outside. If one company sees "AME" on your resume, and won't read any further for the open engineering/design position, another will see that as an ace in your pocket and move you up the list. It depends on what they do, how they train people, what they expect of new hires, and many other factors.

Depending on who you do work for as an AME, you may have made contacts at various engineering organizations and that would come in handy if you want to switch. Provided that doing so doesn't jeopardize the business relationship between your current employer and the one you want to move to (which has happened). The small specialized air operators (eg. airborne survey, remote charters, heli operators) are notorious for trial-by-fire employment practices where you could learn an awful lot, if you can keep up, of value from a maintenance and engineering perspective. There are, however, many OTHER career paths for an experienced aircraft mechanic who wants to change, other than engineering. Most are more lucrative!

The problem you will face, as I said above, is that you will lack the skills that make you productive immediately if you are hired as an engineer, 5-10 years after you studied the subject. You will likely be treated like a fresh grad out of school, and at the very bottom of the totem pole, whether you think you deserve it or not.


RE: Entering the Field of Aerospace engineering by getting an AME (Canada)

For 25+ years; as somebody who deals on both sides of the fence, a Licensed mechanic and University Aero Engineer, here is my long-winded reply ...
(I would also like to add the additional attributes of Multi engine pilot, Aeronautical technologist & Licensed aircraft structures Tech)

It all depend on what you are seeking; as i enjoyed anything that involved aviation; every step was a new challenge to this route that i had selected.
- I saw each step as a new adventure & did not regarded it as a 'free pass' into the next job opportunity ..

If you believe that being a mechanic will make you more marketable .. Wrong !!
Very few Engineers turn wrenches; & very few mechanics design repairs. Engineers dont want to be told how to 'engineer' stuff by mechanics; & mechanics don't want to told how to do their job from Engineers who 'just sit behind a computer' - they just want the final document. This no-man's land of duality Engineer+Mechanic is complicated. You will just be placing yourself in the cross hairs of 2 groups of antagonists. Mechanics believe that they 'run the show' and that Engineering is just an 'auxiliary' service that comes down with the signed paper after the job is completed .. & conversely Engineers don't care much on the job details - as long as things get signed off to the 'Approved document' that they provided.
... & now you want to be entangled in this meat-grinder !! haha

In today's modern 3D virtual world - where everything is perfect & perfectly aligns. Where there are no exceptions - there is no need to think outside the box .. because there is no icon on the menu bar to select that. There is a Design Standards manual for every issue & everything has to be based per precedent design. The new crop of individuals coming into the workforce do not like being informed of stuff that does not have a precedent & they cannot 'cut & paste'. They will teach you everything u need to know at the company.

My specialty involves designing DAR-approved structural repairs on regional aircraft. My previous experience on the floor allows me the confidence
to assess & propose repairs quickly ('on the go') & sometime see 'non textbook alternatives. Having worked at a variety of airlines coast to coast ..
- I've been acquainted with tooling & people's capabilities. There is no point proposing a metallurgical Heat treatment procedure if they cannot support the process. On the other hand, I can promote fabrication of 'in-house' repair parts to expedite the repair given what the talent pool & equipment resources are. On one occasion - the shop was approved for titanium welding - but seeing (& recognizing) previous samples of their poor welds - I amended my repair instructions for a part replacement instead. .. Thus having a Mechanic's background provides an additional dimension to evaluating the safest & most expedient repair.

I have worked in design offices where the engineer was at the mercy of the parts procurement personnel & fabrication technicians. Having never
fabricated anything; the engineer is bombarded with questions related to parts unavailability, substitution, tolerances, fixturing, processes etc. He did not 'engineer' the design - he was just the secretary in summarizing all the issues. Again having the additional insight of being a mechanic could have simplified his anguish ..

Being a recognized member of the 'Mechanics' club - may alienate you from the Engineering fraternity. Many engineers are reluctant to deal with a 'know it all' type & be reminded that things 'just dont work that way'. There is an obvious distinction between the way mechanics & engineers deal with the world. Mechanics want to get it done right & go home .. Engineers like to knit-pick issues & will not 'sign-off' until it is perfect in entirety - causing confusion, delay & tension. Many times it is difficult to decide what bench to sit on. My best example is of a OEM engineer copying & reissuing a factory in house process out as a Field repair instruction .. The poor engineer had no concept that heat treating 'DD' rivets could not be done out in the field in this situation - and this required a significant rewrite of the repair & considerable delay.

Having work at 2 OEMs; I have seen that the vast majority of engineering jobs are 'insulated from day to day reality' and having a mechanics background will not help out too much. It will just only delay your progression up the Engineering ladder of seniority. Unless you are willing to invest a decade as a mechanic - to be a good mechanic / turning a few screws for a few months will not do much good - same experience to be gained fixing your automobile at home.

In my situation - I would repeat the route; but if I had desired to delve into the academic, administrative or procurement side of the industry - no.

If you plan on being a 'hands on' type dealing with mechanics daily - being one will add to your confidence & provide u a quick 'shot' of experience. Just having credentials & never using them is like shooting up at the empty sky .. hoping u will hit something one day .. but 25 years ago .. i would never have guessed that i indeed hit something ! ..

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