From bursaries to work placements, there are plenty of ways to get an early start in aerospace.

A great way to enhance your CV and start networking with people in the aerospace industry is to get involved with the hundreds of initiatives out there that are aimed at young people, such as competitions, work experience schemes, flying bursaries and scholarships. Many are sponsored by aerospace companies who like to get the chance to meet the participants, so they can offer an excellent way to start making useful contacts for your future career moves. Here is a selection to help you get started.

At school

UK Aerospace Rocketry Challenge 2008

The second “eggstraordinary” UK Aerospace Rocketry Challenge is aimed at school teams aged from 11 to 18, the challenge is to design and build a rocket to exact specifications, taking care not to break the fragile payload of two raw hen’s eggs. The finals take place in March 2008 and the winners will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to the USA.
Find out more at

Schools Aerospace Challenge

This long-running competition is open to teams of four from schools and youth organisations around the UK. Each year a new brief is set, focusing on aircraft design for military needs with a prize of £5,000 (shared between team members and the sponsoring school or youth organisation) up for grabs. The 2007 competition asked the 16- 18-year-old entrants to design solutions for maintaining persistent, 24/7 airpower over the battlespace. The 2008 competition opened in February.
For more information visit

Engineering Education Scheme and Headstart

The Engineering Development Trust (EDT) runs great engineering programmes. Their Engineering Education Scheme (EES) is six months long and links teams of Year 12 students and their teacher with local companies to work on in-depth scientific, engineering and technological problems which are relevant to local companies. The programme includes training in communication and team-building skills, use of university labs and workshops, which teams can enter their projects for The BA’s national Crest Awards.

Headstart runs week-long summer schools in university engineering departments for Year 12 students, introducing them to practical problem-solving activities, experience of life as an undergraduate, and much more. There are several specific aerospace engineering summer schools available.
For more information visit and

Year in industry

Another EDT programme for those who want to earn some money before starting university and get some relevant experience is the Year in Industry (YINI) scheme. Over 250 UK companies take part each year and many are so impressed with the students that they go on to sponsor their undergraduate studies. As many of the students make some incredible improvements to their employer’s business over the year, YINI hold the prestigious regional and national “Contribution to the Business” award, with great prizes on offer.
For more information visit

At university

Aircraft design and handling competition

Run by Merlin Flight Simulation Group and the Royal Aeronautical Society, this competition is open to students enrolled at UK universities designing an aircraft as part of a project. The competition is the only one of its kind in aerospace and uses real-life flight test principles. Around six teams’ designs are entered into the final, which takes place at a prestigious aerospace venue. The designs are assessed in flight simulators by test pilots John Farley and Dave Southwood in front of an audience, while a panel of industry judges also evaluates the technical papers produced for the projects. Prizes include free flying lessons, cash and more. It is also a chance to get feedback from flight test pilots and engineers on your aircraft designs.
For 2008 details visit or e-mail

RAeS Centennial Scholarship Scheme

The Royal Aeronautical Society’s Centennial Scholarship fund was established in 2003 to celebrate 100 years since the first powered flight and to assist the next generation of aerospace pioneers in achieving their goals. The fund is to be used for a variety of purposes, particularly tuition fees for final-year undergraduates and postgraduates on aerospace- or aviation-related courses. The fund has also helped in supporting student research projects and initiatives, which aim to help encourage young people into aerospace and aviation. There are two series of applications each year.
For 2008 information visit or e-mail

Learning to fly

Although airlines no longer provide pilot sponsorship, there are a number of smaller bursaries available to help you build your hours and flying skills.

  • Air League - Scholarships and competitions
  • Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators - PPL bursaries for budding pilots
  • British Gliding Association - Gliding scholarships for young people
  • British Women Pilots’ Association - Flying scholarships for women
  • Royal Aero Club Trust - Flying bursaries to flight simulation enthusiasts
  • British Disabled Flying Association - Flight trials at special rates for disabled people