Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Outside The Cockpit

A look at 10 nonflying careers

8. Safety, Logistics and Planning are among the white-collar support positions found in large organizations including aerospace manufacturers and airlines. A two-year community-college degree will help to qualify a candidate for entry-level jobs; a four-year bachelor's degree may be required for supervisory and management positions in these fields. According to the BLS, more than 6,000 logisticians (responsible for getting raw materials, parts and subassemblies to the right place at the right time) are employed in aerospace product and part manufacturing, at an average salary of almost $68,000 per year. The BLS doesn't break out what proportion of occupational safety and health specialists and technicians are employed in aerospace businesses, but those jobs average over $45,000 per year, and employment in the field is expected to grow by 15% in this decade. Part of this growth may be due to new federal requirements, including mandatory wildlife assessment and a likely FAA rule on safety management systems, according to UND's Kim Kenville. These fields, along with maintenance control, are representative of jobs that mechanics, technicians and other hourly workers can work their way into with additional education and experience.

NASA Engineer Rod Chima works in a supersonic wind tunnel (above, top). Installers at Cessna Aircraft mate the wing and fuselage of a Citation CJ4 (above, bottom).
9. Aerospace Medicine offers high-paying jobs for Aviation Medical Examiners (AMEs), Flight Surgeons and their support personnel. AMEs and Flight Surgeons are physicians whose earnings, according to the BLS, average over $186,000 per year for those in primary-care specialties (from which most AMEs and Flight Surgeons are drawn). According to Dr. Richard Jennings, who directs a NASA-sponsored aerospace residency program at the University of Texas, over 4,000 physicians work as full or part-time AMEs, though he doesn't believe that accounts for the bulk of their income: "Most AMEs perform fewer than 20 flight physicals per year." By contrast, physicians who complete an aerospace medicine residency are "usually employed by government agencies such as the FAA, NASA, Army, Navy, Air Force or NTSB. Others may work for universities, airlines, pilot unions, manufacturers and aviation insurance providers. While most specialists in aerospace medicine have decent salaries, compared to other physicians we tend to be at the lower end of the physician salary spectrum—in part due to government salary scales. On the other hand, we have an extremely rewarding area of practice." Dr. Jennings named five ASM-certified physicians who have been selected as NASA astronauts and added "probably half of AMEs are pilots."

10. Aerospace Manufacturing and Maintenance specialists create and maintain the hardware that other aerospace professionals work with. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), almost 214,000 people are employed as machinists, assemblers, inspectors, machine-tool operators, mechanics and service technicians at aerospace manufacturers, airlines and other operators, repair stations and FBOs. These jobs pay by the hour, and often involve shift work. According to the BLS, getting hired for these jobs usually requires a semester or more of community-college or other specialized training—and with employment in this field expected to shrink by nearly 2% this decade, getting hired may take time.


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