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What does an Airport Engineer do?

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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 11 November 2016
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An airport engineer aids in the design, construction, and renovation of public and private airport facilities. He or she develops blueprints and computerized simulations to perfect design concepts, and then manages ongoing construction projects. Airport engineering is a multifaceted field, as it incorporates elements of civil, electrical, and transportation engineering as well as architecture and site supervision. An airport engineer might specialize in a particular area, such as outlining plans for runways and hangars, but many professionals oversee all elements of design and building.

When creating the initial blueprints for a new airport, an engineer first reviews budget statistics and topographical measurements provided by land surveyors. He or she then creates several basic drafts of each element, including runways, towers, terminals, passenger lounges, check-in areas, and parking structures. Most airport engineers utilize computer-aided drafting (CAD) programs to develop detailed three-dimensional blueprints and models. CAD designs are put through simulators to make sure structures are safe, effective, and efficient.

Once an airport engineer's plans are finalized and deemed acceptable by the responsible government agency, construction can begin. Most airport engineers are actively involved with construction, working alongside site supervisors to make sure everything is built exactly to specifications. An engineer inspects progress and addresses any problems or design flaws by making quick decisions. When construction is complete, the engineer again personally investigates all areas to confirm they were safely built.

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Airports are expensive structures that are designed to be in operation for decades. When wear-and-tear and outdated technology affect the quality and safety of an airport, an engineer is typically consulted to make renovation decisions. An airport engineer needs to stay up-to-date on the latest advances in transportation engineering technology in order to equip older airports with the most efficient systems. He or she might suggest larger waiting areas, new passenger flight information centers, or cutting-edge control tower equipment.

The minimum requirement to become an airport engineer is usually a bachelor's degree in civil engineering. After earning a degree, an individual can take the first of a two-part professional engineer exam to start building his or her credentials. He or she can then submit applications to private contracting companies, engineering consulting firms, and regional and national government organizations. Entry-level engineers typically work as assistants for several years to gain experience and create professional relationships in the field. With four to five years of experience, a worker can take the second professional engineer exam and begin looking into senior airport engineer positions.

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