Questionable Path – Aeronautical Engineering at MIT Manipal

Akash Pandey | Guest Blogger

“ A mile of highway will take you just one mile… But a mile of runway will take you anywhere.”

An aeronautical engineer studies to become a pilot. This is a common misconception that many aspiring Aeronautical Engineers have. For the record we don’t become pilots by studying Aeronautical Engineering. Some of us do, but that has nothing to do with what we study here. If you want to become a pilot, you are better off joining a flight school than being here. Another common misconception is that we work at the airport. Now, if you want to be an Air Traffic Controller, Aircraft Mechanic or just one of the many people who are at the airport, then again, this course is not for you. What we do here in Aeronautical Engineering is learn how to design, engineer and manufacture things that fly. Aeronautics, though one of the most exotic and fascinating branch of engineering is one of the least ventured branches in India. So let us begin our journey into aeronautical engineering by answering a few basic questions.

What is Aeronautical Engineering?

Like I said we study how to design, engineer and manufacture aircrafts. How, there are several sub-domains in aeronautical engineering like aerodynamics (Study about air and its properties), propulsion(Study about getting the aircrafts off the ground), structures (Study about how to keep the aircraft from disintegrating), avionics (Study about how to keep the aircraft from getting lost) and systems engineering (Study about integrating various subsystems in an aircraft). This sub-domains are further divided into several sub-sub domain and you can choose to specialize in any of the sub or sub-sub domains. One of the key defining factor of an aeronautical engineer is his knowledge of aerodynamics, for it is the only subject that is truly unique to his branch of study. Though, structures, avionics, etc. are an integral part of aeronautical engineering as well. The these tasks can also be taken care by an electrical, civil or mechanical engineer. So, regardless of your specialization competency in aerodynamics is a must for any Aeronautical Engineer.

Aeronautical in Manipal

Undoubtedly one of the best places in India to pursue your B Tech in Aeronautical Engineering. Here at Manipal, you will have an opportunity to grow more than just academically. The department is a relatively new (started in 2008), but boasts some of the best labs in MIT and possibly in India. With Sub-Sonic wind tunnels, mini gas turbine engines and CFD labs you will not be disappointed with the infrastructure. As a bonus the Department allows its students an opportunity to specialize in Aerodynamics, which is a good option if you want to stay in the aerospace domain. For others, there is Business Management.

Apart from academics MIT Manipal has some of the best student teams and clubs to help you apply what you have learned. Thrust MIT, Formula Manipal (they have a separate aerodynamics sub-section) , Aero-MIT, etc. are all in the lookout for talented aeronautical engineers. Apart from these teams we also have IE-Aerospace, which regularly organizes events and workshops to help students gain the required skills.


A degree in aeronautical engineering should hopefully lead you to a career in an aerospace OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturer) like Boeing, Airbus, Safran, Rolls-Royce, Pratt & Whitney, and others. But industries like the automotive industry & wind energy (for the aerodynamicist), another application of what you have learned here can be in bridge and building aerodynamics, gas turbine/power sector (for a propulsions engineer) and an array of communications (between aircraft and satellite or ground station) is open for avionics and systems engineer. Now before you get carried away, let me warn you that aeronautical engineering is a vast and complicated field and demands years of study before study before you can actually design a real aircraft. The B.Tech degree in Aeronautical Engineering is just a gateway into the world of aerospace and not the world itself. So, if you expect a high paying job in the industry, just after then you are in for some disappointment. Despite having an average salary of over $100,000 (in the US) several restrictions in terms of ITAR and citizenship can become an issue.

In India the private sector is slowly but steadily growing, however it will at least be a few more years before you can expect high paying research oriented aerospace jobs in India. This leaves most of the research oriented students with only one option, i.e. to pursue GATE and join defense PSUs. Hence it becomes mission critical for aeronautical engineering students to decide on either doing a MS, MTech or pursuing a non-core job as soon as possible.   

Pro Tips
  • Networking will play a vital role in securing your first internship or job. So Make sure you have a LinkedIn account by the end of first semester.
  • Don’t focus too much on your grades, they don’t matter much (as long as it’s not 9.5 or above) A 8+ CGPA with some great projects and internships or student team is just as or even more valuable as a 9+ without any projects.
  • Try getting an internship in an airline as an AME before the 3rd year. It will help you visualize and understand the aircraft better.
  • Plan way ahead into the future, core aero jobs are less and IITs are the preferred destination for most of them.
Important Books

There is only one book that you need to read during your 1st year it’s called Flight Without Formula easily available online for less than 250 bucks. Make sure you read it before you enter your 2nd year. There are many books that you can read by Authors like JD Anderson, PK Nag or RK Bansal but those won’t help you much unless you know the basics.


The author is an alumni of MIT Manipal (Batch of 2018) and the former Technical Head of the IE Aerospace Manipal Chapter. He is an avid reader, researcher, blogger, public speaker and standup comic. You can follow his blog at The Jet Boy
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