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Career Story: Design Engineer For Commercial Aircraft

Design Engineer For Commercial Aircraft

Job Title: Design Engineer

Type of Company: My company designs and manufacturers the interior liners for commercial jets: Boeing 737s, Airbus A340-600s and other large aircraft.

Education: BS, Mechanical Engineering, Lafayette College

Previous Experience: I was an intern for an environmental contractor and then a naval company that had contracts with the government.

Job Tasks: I'm currently employed as a design engineer at an aerospace company and work directly with the fabrication centers where airplane interiors are installed to design the structures and panels that go into them. Appearance is very important, but manufacturing constraints and utility play an equally large part in what we do. (Looking good on paper does hardly any good if the panel doesn't fit on the plane!) Luckily, our fabricators make the things we sell at our own facility and the process is designed to be collaborative.

One of the most important aspects of the job I do is working with the plane's manufacturer, or general contractor, while the plane is being built. Airplanes are so complex and there is so much to coordinate that you cannot plan ahead for everything involved in the design and installation of even such a simple thing as panels. And the ability to come up with quick and cost-effective solutions is correspondingly important.

There's a lot of information, including data, that our customers have to supply us with and keeping it organized is critical. And since I work on several projects at a time (on different aircraft), I have to be both organized and prepared to switch gears.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is it's comparative novelty. Even if the planes are the "same" from project to project, each one brings a different set of challenges.

The worst part of it is how sedentary it is. I sit in front of a computer for most of the day.

Job Tips:
1.) Try to get as much internship experience while in college as you can, during the summers or on breaks. What you know is important, but work skills are even more salable.

2.) Make sure you enjoy what you are doing before going out and getting further degrees. Experience is more important that the degrees you've acquired.

3.) Try to be as well-rounded as you can. Communication with others is just as important as technical knowledge.

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