What did I miss?
In their day the Aerospace Industry was better... ...they swear it regularly and tell me what a shame that I missed it.
I have two colleagues here with whom I regularly pass a lunchtime. Not being employed by the owner of the factory means that we're socially isolated from those around us, so we talk to each other about this and that. But there is a difference between us, apart from our three different nationalities, and that is my colleagues have a significantly longer history in the Aerospace Industry than I have, each in their own way.
So what is it that I missed? What I am told, forthrightly and with nodded confirmations, is that sometime around the late 80's or early 90's the Aerospace Industry became different: the halo faded, the mystique evaporated, it became less fun and more serious. That's a coincidence - I graduated in the early 90's.
I had assumed it was true for airline pilots and cabin crew; the difficulties in recruiting increasing now that the magic of the 50's and 60's has worn thin and people have realised that the expense and inconvenience of becoming and being an airline pilot or that cabin crew essentially spend long hours on their feet working in confined spaces for often unappreciative people. Gone the glow of Pilot as portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in "Catch Me if You Can", replaced by discussions about pilot workload and "Did they / didn't they both fall asleep whilst overflying their destination?".
But is the same true of the manufacturers and engineers? What could have changed that eroded this warm feeling? When I applied for university in the UK in the late 1980's, the number of people headed to engineering courses was dropping, but the number of people going into aerospace related courses was actually increasing. (note: this is a recollection, I have no evidence to present to support this). My university did add several other Aerospace related courses to their portfolio whilst I was studying there.
I can say that in my working career, such as it is, I have seen acquisitions and consolidation. The end of McDonnell Douglas in 1997 was a tough thing to watch as a recent aerospace graduate. Evolving techniques, sharp competition and cost reduction have been present along the way, but has this not always been the case?
So were my fellow graduates and I really all too late to benefit from being in Aerospace? Can anyone tell me what changed?