The Advantages of Aviation Engineering

“The airplane stays up because it doesn’t have the time to fall.” – Orville Wright

August 19 marks National Aviation Day—a federally observed holiday to celebrate the history and development of aviation. The date coincides with the birthday of Orville Wright who, along with his brother Wilbur, pioneered significant advancements in flight. In recognition of this annual holiday, we spoke with one of GAI Consultants’ (GAI) aviation engineers, Nick Barber, PE, to learn about his experiences in the specialization of aviation engineering.

How Did You Get Into Aviation Engineering?

Nick: During my college years at Penn State, the thought of aviation engineering had never really crossed my mind. One time, a professor showed a wind rose for an airport and I thought to myself, “Airports—I’ll never work at an airport!” The information regarding the wind rose was immediately purged from my brain to make room for the other 100 or so equations that were pertinent at the time. Little did I know that my future engineering path would require me to use a wind rose, along with many of the equations remembered from college.

What Is Your Most Memorable Aviation Project at GAI?

Nick: One of my very first aviation projects at GAI involved designing a double-stem retaining wall for a runway safety area extension. After the initial onset of panic subsided from fears of incorrectly designing the retaining wall, thoughts as to why I was designing a retaining wall for an airport entered my mind. Several airport design projects later, I had added surveying and stormwater, geotechnical, and transportation engineering to my list of completed designs. I came to realize that airport design encompassed many branches of civil engineering, which is one of the best aspects of being an aviation engineer. I am happy to say that first retaining wall is performing adequately to this day!

What Are Some of the Best Aspects of Aviation Engineering and Planning?

Nick: In addition to essentially utilizing all areas of engineering for airport designs, aviation engineers also get to work very closely with clients on the planning side of things. Whether determining what projects will take priority, how the client will procure funding, or how a particular project will fit into the overall long-term vision, it is exciting and challenging to help formulate a plan and see the client’s vision come to fruition.

“It is exciting and challenging to help formulate a plan and see the client’s vision come to fruition.”

What Opportunities Has Being an Aviation Engineer Afforded You?

Nick: The ability to continually use the many branches of civil engineering, along with the planning skills I have learned over the years, have helped me become a well-rounded, practical engineer. Having a broad engineering background allows me to adequately serve the aviation market sector’s diverse client base.

For questions or additional information, contact Engineering Manager Nick Barber, PE at 814.371.7750. For further information on GAI’s aviation engineering and planning services, visit or

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