As chief stats man for the Aerospace Industries Association, David Napier is constantly ferreting out numbers and trends. What he's found hasn't been comforting.
"Employment is declining," said Napier, the group's director of research. The latest figures, from May of this year, showed total employment in the aerospace industry at 798,000, down sharply from 890,000 in 1998.
The industry, led by Boeing, has come off a record year of sales, Napier said. But because of the long delay between orders and deliveries, the economic flu that hit Asia in 1998 is now causing symptoms here.
Noise regulations are another factor in flagging demand for new planes, according to Napier. By January of this year, U.S. aircraft had to comply with stricter sound rules. "The airlines met that deadline, and now they have sort of an artificially newer fleet than they would have had," he said.
Conventional wisdom in the industry has held that while production employment may wane, the demand for engineers and scientists is immune from hiring troughs. Not true, said Napier, who has studied the trends. "When there's a decline, scientists and engineers also decline at about the same rate."
On the other hand, the picture for defense contracting is somewhat more attractive. "There's a recognition now that we've underinvested in modernizing our [U.S. military] equipment," said Napier.
Napier recently plotted job growth by age for the '90s. "You would think that when you plotted them on a relative scale that the mix [of young and old] wouldn't change from year to year. But the age bracket for the newly graduated from college [25 to 34] has fallen from 27 percent to 17 percent of the work force" in the aircraft and missile sector, he said.
In other words, the aerospace industry is graying at a rather alarming rate. "It's a little scary," Napier said. "It does appear that we don't have an influx of kids."
Trends aside, there are jobs to be found. Boeing has hundreds of engineering openings nationwide. In Huntsville, Ala., for example, Boeing needs a radar systems analyst with a BS and hands-on experience in RF, to design, develop, implement, verify and operate real-time simulation software and facility hardware for the U.S. Army Aviation & Missile Command's Advanced Simulation Center hardware-in-the-loop simulators.
Applicants should be able to "operate, maintain, update and modify existing RF and IR configurations to enable the conduct of simulation tests to ensure proper simulator configurations for user customers." Familiarity with GL, C, ACAD and Motif programming languages is a must, as is familiarity with wideband digital quadrature modulator boards.
In Huntington Beach, Calif., Boeing is looking for an embedded-software engineer with a BS and at least a year of experience. Applicants should be knowledgeable in GN&C and avionics software development and testing, with Unix and Ada operating systems, and with compilers.
Primex, the Redmond, Wash.-based defense contractor, is looking for a principal electrical engineer to design and develop handheld and portable test equipment for aerospace applications. Qualified candidates have a BSEE or related degree and five or more years of experience in test equipment design "using commercial off-the-shelf technology in a MIL/Rugged environment." Experience with developing cards on bus structures such as VME, VXI or CompactPCI is desired. So is knowledge of C/C++ or "an equivalent programming language."