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BECOMING a pilot may be the first job that jumps into your mind when you think of careers in aviation, yet the fact is that there are many other professionals who are working together to keep the world’s planes in the air.

For those who somehow are aware about careers in the civil aviation industry, they will perhaps mention pilots, engineers, flight attendants and probably marshallers. Most of the time, some people think marshallers and air traffic controllers perform the same task; this is very wrong, they are different people and their roles differ.

To make a record straight here, there is a huge difference between the two; marshallers lead aircraft to its parking stand or to the runaway. They provide visual signaling to the pilot to keep turning, slow down, stop or shut down the engine.

On the other hand, air traffic controllers (ATC) are invisible and confined in the control tower giving direction to the aircraft, guiding pilots during takeoff and landing and monitoring aircraft as it travels through the skies.

One might wonder how air traffic controllers guide an aircraft while there are pilot and co-pilot on board.

Yes, they do so as there is zero visibility in the sky, pilots cannot be able to see or even know the position of another aircraft. Therefore, the only eyes are the air traffic controllers who are on the ground.

Rob Mark of flying mag.com argues that “solid relationships between pilots and controllers is the foundation upon which our complex air traffic control system—the largest in the world—is built. Each side needs the other. Without pilots, controllers would be unnecessary. Without ATC, flying safely would be very much in jeopardy”.

However, one might as well think that those are the only interesting jobs that can be found in the aviation industry, while basically, there are plenty of other job opportunities in the industry whereas; some require a university degree while others do not.

Since the aviation industry is built on teamwork spirit, some of these job opportunities are as follows; Flight Operations Director, Air traffic controllers, Design Engineer, Equipment Engineer, Flight Dispatcher, Aerodynamics Engineer, Aircraft Mechanic, Airport Designer, Airport Manager, Security staff and Ticket Agent. 

With assistance from “Virtual Apprentice Airline Pilot”, a book written by Don Rauf and Monique Vescia, each of the above-mentioned jobs will be clearly defined.

Flight Operations Director: carries the task of all flying coordination at an airport including administering a test facility. He or she is in charge of the flying, training and maintenance schedules for the pilots and airplanes. When a pilot is scheduled for a check flight to make sure a repaired plane is operating correctly, the Director arranges the schedule and assigns a pilot to the job.

Air traffic controllers: who confide at the airport control tower, direct all flight movements, give advice and information by radio to pilots, and monitor planes in and around the airport .It’s a demanding job that requires mental alertness, and clear communication skills.

Design Engineer: If you’ve ever made a paper or model airplane, you’ve dabbled in airplane design. Professional airplane designers do the same thing but on a much larger scale. The world’s largest commercial airliners designed so far are the Boeing 747, which typically carry about 400 people, and the new AirBus A380, which is created to hold as many as 850 passengers. Depending on the type of plane needed, a designer decides how long a plane  will be, how many people or cargo items it will hold, how wide it will be , where the wings should be placed, and how strong the materials need to be. These professionals usually have at least a college degree in mechanical, civil, or aerospace engineering.

Equipment Engineer: If you’ve flown on a major airline, you know that it can sometimes get hot and stuffy. That’s when you reach up and turn the knob in the ceiling to point the airflow directly at you. This type of air conditioning and circulation system is created by an equipment engineer.

These specialists focus on building the mechanical and electrical elements of a plane, including systems for heating, pressurizing, hydraulics, and/or oxygen equipment. Equipment engineers usually need an educational background in mechanical, electrical, or systems engineering.

Flight Dispatcher: Every flight is tracked by a licensed dispatcher on the ground. The flight dispatchers work with the pilots planning flight details like fuel consumption, altitudes, traffic flow, and weather.

To plan the best routes, dispatchers consider winds aloft and look for the best tailwinds or the least headwinds. They authorize takeoffs or cancel flights. They often work under pressure in a noisy, hectic office with other airport workers.

They rely on computers, calculators, and weather charts—sometimes doing the job of a meteorologist. Most of these positions require a college degree with a major in air transportation and some background in meteorology.

Aerodynamics Engineer: These engineers are part of the team that helps build planes that fly more smoothly, efficiently, and quietly. Drawing on their knowledge of aerospace engineering, they use sophisticated computer programs to help create new plane designs.

From their plans, they build scale models of planes and test them in wind tunnels so they can observe how the craft will react under simulated wind conditions. Computer programs called computational fluid simulations predict how different airplane shapes will perform. Most aerodynamics engineers have at least a bachelor’s degree in engineering.

 Aircraft Mechanic: These professionals are just like the mechanics who do car repair except they work on airplanes instead. They make sure planes are safe to fly after each flight. They conduct extensive annual inspections every year. If an aircraft isn’t operating correctly they get in “under the hood” and examine the engine and other mechanical parts to find the problem. Using hand and electric tools, they often replace faulty parts and repair the aircraft.

Airport Designer: Runways, terminals, towers, parking lots, roads, bridges—just think of all the elements that go into building an airport. Airport designers put all these elements together to make airports that operate efficiently and safely.

They draw on their knowledge of architecture, construction, and civil engineering. (Civil engineers plan all the structures in areas that are used by the general public.) If you have seen a miniature model of an airport, that’s exactly how airport designers visualize how to put together the elements of a new airport.

Security staff: Before you board a plane, you have to go through security checkpoints and have your carry-on bags X-rayed and searched by screeners who are making sure nothing dangerous or illegal goes aboard.

Screeners also make passengers walk through metal detectors to make sure they are not bringing any harmful items onboard. For extra security, they physically search people at random. Security people are really the first line of defense against possible acts of terrorism, and their jobs have become more important as acts of terrorism have increased.

 Ticket/check-in Agent: The first friendly face you see upon entering the airport is often the ticket agent. They officially check passengers in at the airport—making sure they have seat assignments and proper identification.

Agents also sell tickets, weigh and tag luggage, and answer questions on schedules and fares. You need good communication skills for this job and the ability to handle passengers’ complaints and frustrations. It’s a job that can take great patience, and you can usually start out with just a high school degree.

 Ally Changwila is a Senior Public Relations Officer at Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA), with the help of online sources and various readings has managed to compile such a piece. The reading includes Don Rauf and Monique Vescia, Virtual Apprentice: Airline Pilot, 2008, Bright Futures Press.


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