Last Updated on Nov 19, 2022
Aerospace welding is part of airplane manufacturing. Although it isn’t as common as other welding categories, it is still part of the welding industry.
Perhaps the lack of popularity of aerospace welding within the industry is because entering this specific niche of the welding market isn’t exactly the easiest thing ever. However, it is not impossible. Hence, if you’re looking forward to becoming an aerospace welder, this article is for you.
We will explain what aerospace welding is and what are the steps you need to follow in order to become one.
Aerospace Welding – the high level expectations
As the name suggests, aerospace welding is a process utilized in aircraft construction, although spacecraft is also part of the category. Another term utilized for this concept is “structural welding.” This type of welding focuses on crafting large structures, which will then be destined to be used in commercial aircraft or spacecraft.
Unlike other welding processes, aerospace welding implies the scrutinization of the welds for a “cleaner” appearance. Furthermore, relatively high temperatures are used to heat the welds while the results are cooled faster than in other processes. Since these high-temperature welds tend to be “brittle,” the welder is required to have extra care with them.
Aerospace welding is all about combining metallic components and structures. Therefore, providing structural support is also a prominent part of the process.
Many methods and processes take place in aerospace welding. Some of the most common include gas metal-arc, resistance, and electron beam. Gas tungsten arc welding is also an important part of aerospace welding.
Characteristics of aerospace welding
It’s worth noting that, although aerospace welding isn’t a new art, it has started to become quite popular in recent years. This category of welding tends to be characterized by the following aspects:
- The production tends to be faster.
- The design time takes less time compared to other categories.
- Despite how intimidating the name is, the costs aren’t too high.
- The cleanliness is improved and thoroughly emphasized throughout the whole process.
- The welding seams are completely eliminated.
What does an aerospace welder do?
Now that we know what aerospace welding is about, it is time to explore the different duties of an aerospace welder. Overall, we can say that an aerospace welder is a person that welds in aerospace, more specifically in aircraft or spacecraft, depending on their specialization. Now that we’ve mentioned the term specialization, there are three main areas where an aerospace welder can focus:
- Prototype fabrication: This specialization implies the creation of prototypes of new aircraft. It consists of welding smaller parts together for a “bigger” project.
- Repair: An aerospace welder can also specialize in welding small cracks or holes found within aircraft bodies.
- Overhaul: Last but not least, an overhaul welder welds on aircraft engines and replaces the worn parts if necessary.
It’s quite usual for aerospace welders to work indoors. Typically, they’ll complete their activities at the airport or perhaps at an aircraft factory. It’s worth noting that, if you’re interested in working in this field, the environment tends to be quite hot and noisy.
An aerospace welder can complete diverse, unique projects throughout their careers, such as airplanes or helicopters. However, some of the works may also include rockets, satellites, and other types of spacecraft.
What are the common materials utilized in aerospace welding?
It can be challenging to mention all of the materials used in this industry. However, some of the most common may include aluminum, titanium, and steel alloys, such as stainless steel. Copper, carbon steel, and even carbonized steel are often listed as materials.
This list is pretty limited compared to the number of elements utilized in aerospace welding. It depends on the project at hand and its objectives of it.
How to become an Aerospace Welder
Now that we know what aerospace welding is all about, how do you start in this field?
Well, if you’re interested in aerospace welding, you probably have an adventurous soul. This part of the article will tell you what you need to become an aerospace welder. Of course, it takes time, but your effort will be worth it in the end.
Obtain a high school diploma or equivalent
You need to become an aerospace welder first is a high school diploma or an equivalent document (GED, for instance). It is the most basic requirement in the field.
Still, it is worth noting that employers are more likely to consider applicants who possess an associate’s degree in welding technology or a similar niche. Furthermore, if you would like to sign up for a welding school program, you’ll be required to have a high school diploma or Ged.
If you don’t have this document, perhaps it is time to start working on it!
Four-year degree in welding and fabrication or mechanical engineering
Aerospace welders are required to have a four-year degree in welding and fabrication. These courses will teach you how to use the different tools and materials, as well as how to apply heat to all the different elements utilized in the process or how to repair certain parts.
The next step is to get certified. Although it may seem intimidating, the truth is that the certification process isn’t as complicated as it seems. You’re only required to complete a written test and show your skills, all of this with the objective of proving your competence.
The American Welding Society (AWS) is in charge of managing these exams. As mentioned, the test is divided into two parts. Firstly, you will be required to complete a written exam; then, you’ll go through a hands-on welding test. The latter part of the exam usually takes place in AWS’s testing center.
Now, the exam touches on several topics related to welding. You can take a class to prepare yourself for the exam, too. These courses are available at most welding schools out there.
Start acquiring experience
As with any other field, you will need to gain some experience before you can get to work in more professional jobs. If you want to get hands-on experience, you can start by completing internships. You will see the real work and what it is like to work in such an area. Hence, this can give you an idea of whether aerospace welding is truly for you or not.
Please note that, as per usual, internships tend to be unpaid. You will be able to use all the necessary equipment and learn how to complete essential tasks, though.
Another way to learn is an apprenticeship. In this option, a professional has decided to “adopt” you as their disciple, which means that they will train you. In other words, you will be working for someone else while not being paid – but you will get free training.
It’s also possible to acquire experience by working in a related field. For instance, if you’re interested in aerospace welding, you can also work as an aircraft mechanic before changing fields in the future.
It’s important to acquire a license to be able to work. You can obtain it via the local licensing agency in your area of residence. We highly recommend talking about it with your employer if you already have a job. Also, if you want to pursue a different path, you can get in touch with the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee to determine the licensing requirements for the field you’re interested in.
Networking is necessary for most fields. Although it isn’t necessary to advance, you’re more likely to get valuable jobs if you start establishing contact with people within the welding industry. You can, for instance, join a welding union and meet different people interested in the same field as you. Professional organizations are also another excellent option in this case.
If you feel like you’re ready to become an aerospace welder, then it is time to start applying for a real job. Although the process can differ from one workplace to another, overall, you will need to fill out an application and then attend an interview. You will likely be required to go through a background check, a drug test, and last but not least important, to take a welding test.
Whether you fail or pass the test is up to the employer. It’s not easy to become part of this field, but it can be quite rewarding in the long run.