1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Which is better, being an aerospace engineer or a pilot?

  1. Dec 31, 2013 #1
    So i have a best friend and we're both taking this course what you call BS in Aeronautical Engineering.

    However, the difficulty of math subjects made him decide to plan to shift to BS in Air Transportation (Pilot) but he doesn't have money. He's inviting me to join him in a business but the problem is, we still need money (debit) for that business.

    The business we're planning is buy and sell of repaired cars which were formerly salvaged/damaged. We're not gonna repair, we will pay someone to repair for those salvaged cars just in case.

    He told me to shift to air transportation with him. It's alright for me to shift to air transportation because I also want to be a pilot at the same time, I want to be an aerospace engineer. Now we're deciding whether we will try networking to earn money, which is very doubtful because of the way they sales talk, or find a good job this summer. But the problem is we're still young, both 17 yrs old, and we don't have experience to get a good job. I will turn 18 this march and I think I can apply in a call centre but the problem is, he's still a minor on summer so he can't work. We're planning to share everything we will earn just in case.

    Here's my personal problem. I'm not actually in a hurry to be a pilot. I also want to be an engineer. My dream is to be an engineer and a test pilot at the same time. I don't care which job i will get first, either as a pilot or an engineer. As of now, I'm taking an engineering course because I don't have money for air transportation and so does he.

    My another problem is, if our plan to make a business will turn into garbage, he will join the military and earn for experience until he gets that something like scholarship to be a pilot, but i don't want to join the military. Now I'm encouraging him to stay in this course but I can't convince him anymore because he is too worried that maybe he will fail some math subjects and repeat again.

    It's hard to say no to your best friend because simply he's a best friend. I'm not saying that I don't like his idea but I think it's too way risky. Its very difficult to lose a person who helps u and most of all, trusts u a lot. I never expected that he will trust me so much, that he chose me to be the person who will make a helping hand with him together. It's like, I can't imagine myself taking this course without a friend like him. I'm willing to help him to that business part but to join the military, as his second choice, i just don't want to join it.

    This course is just so hard! So what am i gonna choose? Should I join him in that business just in case we successfully make that plan. Join him in military which i don't like (as his second choice)? Shift to BS air transportation when we successfully make that business plan?

    So what should i do? And what should I tell to convince him to just stay in this engineering course just in case?

    Making a business to gain money to fulfill your dreams is so risky especially buy and sell.
    Everything is risky. Nothing is wrong with trying, but i don't want to regret someday.

    And Lastly, which is better, to be a pilot or to be an aerospace engineer?
    In terms of:

    What should I take first, flying or aerospace engineering? I want to design that's why I want to be an engineer at the same time, I want to fly an airplane which is why I'm planning to be a test pilot but I know, to be a test pilot requires flying experience so I also need to be a full-time commercial pilot. How many years of experience do I need to be qualified as a test pilot?

    And for flight engineer, does it require flying experience because my best friend told me that it does? I told him that flying is so sensitive when it comes to your health status. So we need an alternative job just in case.

    We also plan to franchise a business but I think we cannot be an engineer/pilot and a businessman at the same time. I want to be a manager of an airline if ever I will be given a chance or why not just build my own airline someday?

    Any opinions will be accepted except the rude ones. Thank you!
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 31, 2013 #2
    I am an engineer, though not an aerospace engineer. I am also an instrument rated private pilot and former airplane owner.

    Before I answer any of your questions, let me point out that we have a sick joke in aviation: Just about the only way to make a small fortune in aviation is to start with a large one. This field is very competitive. It is also bureaucratic as hell. Another sick joke in aviation is that a newly designed aircraft will not get off the ground until the weight of all the government documentation is greater than the gross weight of the aircraft.

    I'm not trying to discourage you, but do realize that many people share the same dreams as you and your friend.

    Let me also point out that even after more than 20 years of being a licensed pilot, I still feel a sense of wonder at the sights of the sky, the weather, and the land I fly over. And I still get a thrill after flying an instrument procedure, punching through gooey weather to see the runway lights ahead of me. Flying is a joy for me, as it is for many others. There will always be a ridiculous surplus of pilots. Most pilots barely make a living wage. Yes the airlines pay well, if you can keep that Left Seat job. But most pilots I know have a plan B. Many have left aviation for greener pastures.

    There is also the problem of flying in dangerous conditions or possibly getting fired for refusing a flight. The latter is the main reason I chose not to fly as a profession. There will come a time when you will have to make some gut wrenching decisions to stay on the ground. For me it is a hell of a lot easier to decide to stay on the ground if I don't have to wonder where my next meal will come from. I've been out there in bad weather and on aircraft with serious engine problems. Believe me, I still get chills when I think about those situations.

    Next, there are many people who don't realize what business they're in. You need someone with a sharp nose for business and common sense. Those who focus on engineering tend to get lost in the details. If your friend isn't also going to business school, then you need a third person to help you guys write proposals, raise money, and market your ideas.

    As for test pilot positions, you have about as much chance of doing that as becoming an astronaut. Yes, it's that difficult. Most test pilots have military backgrounds because only the military can afford to train people to fly wide varieties of aircraft. There are not many test pilot positions in the world.

    Yes, your concerns about staying fit are very significant. Airline Transport Pilots in the US have to get an extensive physical examination every six months to continue flying airliners.

    As for engineering, the nice thing is that your experience can translate to other areas, whereas a pilot license is only good for flying aircraft.

    Overall, not to burst your bubble, but pilot salaries are generally lower middle class, experience required is extensive, and job stability is not good. But if you know what you're doing, there are opportunities.

    If you choose to go the engineering route, there are probably more opportunities available. Your experience can translate from aviation to turbine design rather quickly. You can also design avionics, refurbish aircraft, and many more things.

    Aviation is a tough business to be in. Nobody I respect goes in to it without a backup plan of some sort. You shouldn't, either. Your friend has a backup plan. So should you.
  4. Dec 31, 2013 #3


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    My advice would be, work as an aerospace engineer at a company where you can learn to fly "on the cheap". You won't get to be a test pilot or even a commercial iplot that way, but as the previous post said those may not be relaiistic goals anyway.

    For example my employers have close links with a flying club that operates from a company-owned airfield (which is also used as an open-air test site), Some of the company's pilots are qualified instructors and examiners. You can also have as much involvement as you want, effectively "for free", in ground-based operations, radio operating, etc.

    Of course this isn't entirely altruism on the part of the company - sometimes they need engineers to get involved with in-flight testing or data collection, either with airline customers or when developing new aircraft, where a PPL is effectively the "entry ticket" to working from a back seat on the flight deck.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook