This job profile is hands on and provides a lot of opportunity to practically work on different aircraft. Analytical skills, attention to fine detail and keeping calm under pressure are some of the professional traits
Every air traveler is familiar with the onboard hospitality of cabin crews and the pilot's role to ensure a safe flight. However, most air travelers are unaware of a certain individual who acts as the silent first line of flight safety for everyone onboard, including the pilots and cabin crews. That individual is an aircraft engineer who makes sure that the aircraft is safe and fit to fly. Thus, ensuring safety in the air by precise engineering and maintenance of the aircraft on the grounds.
Md Mijanur Rahman is one of such aircraft engineers. He is currently working at Novoair – a reputed Bangladeshi airline operating ATR 72-500 aircrafts on both international and domestic routes. He is also the head of maintenance control and production planning of Novoair's engineering department. He holds a bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the Military Institute of Science and Technology (MIST). He also holds a master's of Business Administration degree from the Institute of Business Administration at University of Dhaka.
Mijanur has a professional engineering license from Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) on ATR 72-500 Aircraft, as well as experience in engineering project management experience involving aircraft purchase and heavy maintenance management.
But why is the role of an aircraft engineer considered as first line safety for aircraft? Mijanur explains the role and importance of aircraft engineers and their contribution to flight safety with The Business Standard.
The role of an aircraft engineer
The prime responsibility of an aircraft engineer is to ensure that all components and systems of the aircraft are functioning properly. This is done through visual checks and operational tests to make sure there are no faults in the aircraft. If any fault is discovered, the aircraft engineer has to identify the source of the problem and rectify it in the shortest possible time to avoid flight delay. This job profile is hands on and provides a lot of opportunity to practically work on different aircraft. Analytical skills, attention to fine detail and keeping calm under pressure are some of the professional traits of an aircraft engineer.
Aircraft engineers begin their duty with a preflight inspection before a flight takes off. First, they perform a walk around the aircraft to visually inspect and detect any signs of damage, crack, fluid leaks and general abnormalities. Next, they perform operational tests on the aircraft computers and check whether all components are working properly. Upon checking all the boxes required to certify the aircraft as fit to fly, the engineer signs the aircraft logbook - certifying the craft's fitness.
However, if the pilot observes any abnormality regarding the flight's performance, the aircraft engineer performs troubleshooting to identify the problem. Upon inspection, the engineer changes any faulty equipment and the flight is signed off as fit to be flown.
Aircraft engineers also perform heavy maintenance on aircrafts like the C-check. These checks are done every 20 to 24 months where most of the aircraft is disassembled, inspected, the faulty items are replaced with newer ones, and reassembled after a thorough inspection. After a C check, the aircraft is restored to almost new condition.
These engineers are also required to replace entire engines, landing gears and handle propeller assemblies. Such tasks are mammoth and require an experienced team of aircraft engineers who work on these projects for weeks at a stretch.
Apart from aircraft centered roles, aircraft engineers can also perform clerical tasks by partaking in tasks related to Continuing Airworthiness Management Organizations (CAMO). CAMO deals with managing the maintenance tasks, monitoring engines' health, assessing reliability, and documentation and handling records. CAMO engineers do not work directly on the aircraft, rather they provide technical and documentation support to the aircraft engineers.
New challenges everyday
Modern aircraft are very complex machines with hundreds of computers and major components interfaced with each other. Sometimes, it requires daylong effort, critical thinking, and a series of trials and errors to find the smallest of faults that caused the engine to malfunction. Troubleshooting such critical problems and rectification requires a mathematician's thinking and a surgeon's motor skills.
Becoming an aircraft engineer
To become an aircraft engineer, a candidate must have an engineering degree preferable in aeronautical or aerospace discipline. The most difficult part of an aircraft engineers qualification is obtaining the professional engineering license from the National Civil Aviation Authority, or the CAAB for Bangladesh. This requires passing 13 rigorous exams parallel to their professional experience. After obtaining the license, the aircraft engineer undergoes specialized training programs on a specific type of aircraft and obtains the Type Rated license after sitting for another set of exams.
However, the process of conducting licensing exams in Bangladesh is slow and needs improvements at the policy level. Currently, it takes an engineer five years to obtain the Type Rated rank. Due to the initial steep learning curve, most talented young engineers who aim to build a career in this industry end up shifting to other professions due to better and faster opportunities. But the CAAB and related government bodies are working on fixing these issues to bring faster and progressive career opportunities for hopeful aircraft engineers.
The aviation industry in Bangladesh is comparatively smaller and has a niche job market offering the right candidates attractive career paths. Currently, all the airline operators of Bangladesh are employing at least one foreign aircraft engineer for each of the operator's aircraft. This creates a large vacuum of qualified aircraft engineers in the aviation industry of Bangladesh. This is a good opportunity for youngsters to step up to the challenge and earn a promising career.
Starting from CAMO functions to preflight inspections to C checks, aircraft engineers keep the aircraft operational in optimum condition and safe to take flight. So, next time you catch a flight on time and your onboard experience is smooth, without any turbulence, please take a moment to appreciate the contributions of the aircraft engineers who are on duty 24/7 as the silent first line of flight safety.