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What is Aeronautical Engineering?

By Andrew Jones
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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Aeronautical engineering is the study of how things fly in the Earth's atmosphere and the application of that knowledge to design and build aircraft and missiles. It is a branch of aerospace engineering, which also includes astronautical engineering. There are many different subfields in aeronautical engineering, ranging from research and development to aircraft maintenance. The broad range of the field means that it is also very interdisciplinary, incorporating elements of math, electronics, and physics, among other things. There are many different types of jobs available in this field, but most require advanced degrees.

Areas of Focus

Aeronautical engineering encompasses an extremely broad range of areas, including the research and development, testing, assembly, and maintenance of aircraft and missiles and their parts. Other areas of focus include the effect that aircraft have on the surrounding environment, the potential dangers of specific aircraft, and their fuel and systems efficiency. Aeronautical engineers use many different elements in working on these areas, including math, electronics, software design, risk analysis, aerodynamics — the study of how air interacts with solid objects — and propulsion, which is the study of how to create enough force to achieve and remain in flight. The design of aircraft systems, or avionics, is also an important subfield, as is materials selection, which involves choosing materials that can withstand large amounts of force but are relatively light.

Work Environment

Aeronautical engineers tend to specialize in one or more of the areas above, but they also often work together with other specialists. Some areas of employment in this field include fuel efficiency testing, airframe design, engine design, flight testing, and investigating airplane crashes. Other jobs include gathering information through test flights, interpreting aircraft performance data, supervising the assembly of aircraft and missiles, analyzing the environmental impacts of flights, and assessing the potential risks of new aircraft designs. Training for aeronautical engineering varies regionally, but almost always includes a graduate degree. Some universities offer degrees in this field specifically, but degrees in related fields like mathematics, physics, and mechanical engineering can be useful as well.

Aeronautical vs. Astronautical Engineering

The main difference between aeronautical and astronautical engineering is the physical area of focus. Aeronautical engineering focuses on flight within the Earth's atmosphere, while astronautical engineering focuses on the research of space flight and the design of spacecraft and satellites. This includes research on how to best launch spacecraft and the effects the surrounding environment has on them, as well as developing systems to control spacecraft and designing materials that can withstand space flight. Like aeronautics, astronautical engineering is highly technical and very interdisciplinary.

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Discussion Comments

By anon992542 — On Sep 15, 2015

I have worked in this subject for ten years now and I promise you, you will not like it. I started working in it because I am interested in planes, but every day all day I report to work in a cubicle and absolutely hate my job.

By anon974053 — On Oct 15, 2014

I am still in high school. What grade do I need to achieve to study aeronautical engineering? I have so much interest in this course.

By anon957712 — On Jun 21, 2014

To be an aeronautical engineer, how much do you need to be educated?

By Shushant — On Apr 26, 2014

Is this course of Aeronautics expensive or is it affordable for a middle class family too? Which country is best for learning Aeronautical engineering and which university is the best one?

By anon344935 — On Aug 14, 2013

I learned some things from this article, but an aircraft maintenance engineering college provides different training programmes for their students' skill enhancement and they also provide practical knowledge for further industrial implementation usage.

These institutes provide different kinds of training programmes for aeronautical engineering, aerospace, aeronautical engineering, etc. These fields are very important and sensitive, so special attention is required for these programmes.

By anon340921 — On Jul 07, 2013

I want to know about the scope of aeronautical engineering in Pakistan.

By anon320126 — On Feb 16, 2013

What are the main reasons why aeronautical courses are unpopular?

By anon267414 — On May 10, 2012

What is the future scope of aeronautical engineering?

By wynos — On Jan 15, 2012

who specializes in the engines between an aeronautical and an aircraft engineer?

By anon189928 — On Jun 24, 2011

awesome. but do many students take an interest in aeronautical engineering?

By anon165525 — On Apr 05, 2011

so, Aeronautical engineering involves everything included before assembly? Cool.

By anon164352 — On Mar 31, 2011

depending on location, e.g. country. for example, the australian military engineering isn't too good due to the fact only ultra light aircraft are produced here. all the military use are british and usa aircraft so all the engineering side comes from those places.

By anon147897 — On Jan 31, 2011

i like this information and especially pelestears comment. thank you very much!

By anon146347 — On Jan 26, 2011

thank you very much! it's just what i need.

By anon143474 — On Jan 16, 2011

at present which field in aeronautics has an extreme importance so that aeronautical engineering graduates can find plenty of jobs?

By cougars — On Sep 11, 2010

@ Amphibious54- The BLS outlook for aeronautical engineering jobs is good. Graduates should expect to find plenty of work, especially since there has been a recent push to develop new and more efficient military and commercial aircraft as well as new weapons systems.

Aerospace engineers are also the fourth highest paid engineers behind petroleum, computer hardware, and nuclear engineers. The average aerospace engineer earns over $90,000 a year.

By PelesTears — On Sep 11, 2010

@ Amphibious54- At first glance aeronautical and aerospace engineering may seem like a narrow field, but there are numerous options and specialties within the field. In fact, aerospace engineering has the seventh highest employment distribution of all fields of engineering, topping environmental, chemical, materials and petroleum engineering.

Aerospace engineers can specialize in guidance systems, structural design, manufacturing, control and navigation or communications systems. Aerospace engineers can also specialize in a specific type of air or spacecraft, and often become experts in certain areas of physics like thermodynamics, aerodynamics, or acoustics. There are many different options for those interested in aerospace engineering.

By Amphibious54 — On Sep 11, 2010

Aeronautical engineering seems like a narrow engineering field. What kinds of jobs can someone with an aeronautical engineering degree expect to find? What is the pay compared to other fields of engineering?

By anon105097 — On Aug 19, 2010

Very useful information. Thanks a lot.

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