Education

Flying high

Careers in aerospace and aeronautical engineering are promising, but what is the difference between the two?

“Science is about understanding the origins, nature, and behaviour of the universe and all it contains; engineering is about solving problems by rearranging the stuff of the world to make new things,” wrote professor and author Henry Petroski. One needs to understand whether one is suited for studying science or engineering before embarking on the long and tough journey of college education. Many people combine the sense of these two words and make uninformed decisions.

We live in times when parents are concerned about career prospects and job opportunities even before making the decision as to which branch their child has to pursue. The interests and passion of the child are secondary.

Further, the job market appears to indicate that for an engineer or a science graduate, the current requirement is breadth of knowledge rather than a focussed specialisation.

The need of the hour is a multidisciplinary approach to solve problems. One of the major multidisciplinary fields in engineering is aerospace and aeronautical engineering. Designing and manufacturing an aeroplane or spacecraft demands high quality engineering knowledge and . In India, we have witnessed ISRO’s successful space programmes and also the many years it has taken for us to design and manufacture a Light Combat Aircraft.

Careful choice

There is always a doubt as to which option to choose between aeronautical engineering and aerospace engineering. If one is interested in working on aircraft design and development, air breathing engines, aircraft manufacturing or any of the allied areas then one should choose aeronautical engineering.

If one is interested in spacecraft, satellites, launch vehicles and so on, in addition to understanding rocket propulsion, one should choose aerospace engineering.

Aeronautical engineering deals with the design, study and flying of aircraft within the earth’s atmosphere, while aerospace engineering includes the study of aircraft that are used within the atmosphere as well as outside.

Aeronautical engineers study thermodynamics, aircraft structures, heat transfer, aircraft flight mechanics, aircraft stability and control, flight vehicle design and so on. Aerospace engineers study astronautics, spacecraft design, rocket propulsion, spacecraft dynamics, orbital mechanics, and so on.

In many institutions, aeronautical engineering and astronautical engineering are considered as the two sub-branches or specialisations of aerospace engineering. Avionics specialisation is also another sub-group in aerospace engineering.

A push for developing the aerospace industry in the country will be a push for industries in all sectors, as it sits on the apex of the industry pyramid.

With India having the largest workforce in the world for the next few decades, it is important for students to make the right career choice in a field that has scope to develop over the next three to four decades. Fields related to air transportation promise high potential for the future.

The writer is a professor in the department of aeronautical engineering, MVJ College of Engineering.

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Printable version | Apr 7, 2020 1:11:38 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/flying-high/article25143608.ece

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