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James Wyllie

Aeronautical Engineer


Occupation Related Questions


What does your job involve?

“My role is to design repairs for the structure of our aeroplanes to make sure they stay in the air.

“Your typical repairs could be to fix damage to the airframe caused by things like lightning strikes, corrosion, or dings from cargo equipment at the airport. They could be repairs to something big like a wing or part of the fuselage, or it could be to something as little as a cupholder or a lavatory door.”

What’s the most satisfying part of being an aeronautical engineer?

“All the repairs we do are divided into two categories – either minor or major.  The major ones are a bit more important, because if they don’t go so well they could cause big problems. You have to put a bit more work into them and there’s a big emphasis on integrity and safety. But because of that you get a really good result at the end, which always gives you a good feeling of accomplishment.”

Why aeronautical engineering?

“I always had a big fascination with planes, and maths and physics were really my strong points in school, so it really pointed me towards aeronautical engineering.

“People can get into aircraft maintenance engineering through doing a traineeship, but I wanted to go through the university route. In other countries they have universities that offer aviation-specific engineering degrees, but in New Zealand a mechanical engineering degree is the closest you can get.

"Mechanical engineering is extremely broad, and maybe only about a quarter of one of the papers that I did for my degree was specific to aircraft engineering. So the in-house training here at Air New Zealand has been a huge learning curve from the moment I started."

You’ve only been in the job for a year – what have been the biggest challenges so far?

“Learning all of the civil aviation regulations. There are layers of rules governing everything we do, from the manufacturers’ maintenance manuals and approved repair schemes, through to Air New Zealand’s own procedures, and compliance at all times with the Civil Aviation Act. We’ve got to make sure that all of the repairs we do are following those to the letter so that people can fly safely.

“There are also lots of acronyms in the aviation industry, I’ve found. Pretty much everything is EDAs, TIs, TAs – there’s an acronym for everything. It’s almost another language!”

Aeronautical acronyms

  • TI - Technical instructions – "When aircraft damage is found my team and I are called. We assess the damage, design a repair, and issue a TI, which is essentially repair instructions."
  • TA - Technical assessment – "Before the TI can be issued we must first do a TA, which justifies the repair."
  • EDA - Engineering data authorisation – "There are times when we need to get a repair approved through the company that manufactured the aircraft. In these cases an EDA is issued, authorising us to use the manufacturer's data on our aircraft."