From building airplanes to blasting robotic arms into space aboard space shuttle missions, the more than 500 companies and 87,000 employees who make up Canada’s aerospace industry do just about everything that has anything to do with flying.
The industry is booming, more than doubling its sales over the past 20 years to $22.5 billion. Its advanced technology is in big demand outside of Canada too. Three-quarters of our aerospace output in aviation, defence and space is exported to other countries, according to the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC).
Past and present, Canada’s aerospace companies have chalked up pretty impressive achievements both in space and on Earth. Aerospace engineers, technologist, researchers and designers build aircraft components and actual aircraft like Bombardier’s innovative business jets. We also specialize in commercial helicopters, air traffic control systems and new composite materials to lighten aircraft and reduce fuel use. The industry includes satellites too for communications, remote sensing and all kinds of data collection like identifying new mining resources, helping in search and rescue, and weather tracking.
Below are a just a few examples of our achievements.
Apollo Moon Landing - Quebec-based Héroux-Devtek produced the landing gear systems for all six U.S. Apollo lunar modules that allowed astronauts to touch down safely on the moon and re-launch off its surface. While all the astronauts came back, the landing gear didn’t and still sits in six different locations on the moon! Today, Héroux-Devtek continues its tradition of technological innovation in landing gear, aerostructures and industrial products at its 12 production facilities in North America.
Space Shuttle Robotic Arm - MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA) in British Columbia is famous for producing the Canadarm which was the space shuttle’s robotic arm for 135 missions over 29 years. MDA also provides advanced information solutions that capture and process vast amounts of data used to improve the performance of business and governments worldwide. MDA is still strong in robotics and that technological expertise extends to the medical, nuclear and automated mining sectors. It also excels in a long list of other advanced technologies like satellite antennas and data intelligence and surveillance.
Flight Simulators - Another Quebec company, CAE is a global leader in simulators like those used to train pilots in life-like cockpits that duplicate the flying experience without ever leaving the ground. CAE offers civil aviation, military, and helicopter training services in more than 45 locations worldwide and trains approximately 100,000 crew members every year! It also does simulation training for healthcare and mining.
Satellites – Ottawa-based Telesat has been a leader in satellite communications for more than 50 years or just about as long as satellites have existed. Way back in 1952, Telesat's predecessors at AT&T and Bell Labs launched Telstar 1 which provided the first live intercontinental satellite TV transmission between Europe and the U.S. Today, Telesat has offices and facilities around the world. Its space fleet consists of 13 satellites. Telesat also manages the operations of additional satellites for other companies and governments.
Click to see the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada full list of Canadian aerospace products and services.
Education Paths to Cool Aerospace Careers
You can mash up any number of different educational paths that will lead you into an aerospace-related career. There are the most common university programs you’d expect like mechanical, electronics and systems engineering programs plus college diplomas and certifications for technologists, machinists and technicians.
If space is your thing, York University has a Bachelor of Space Science program as well as a Bachelor of Space Engineering with an option for supervised work terms in the space or communications industry. York’s professors have been directly involved with many Canadian and international space missions.
Ryerson’s Bachelor of Aerospace Engineering degree includes studies in aerodynamics, stress analysis and structural design, flight mechanics, stability and control, aircraft performance, propulsion, avionics and systems, together with courses in the fields of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering.
Carleton University offers a Bachelor Aerospace Engineering that has three main streams of study – aerospace structures, systems and vehicle design, and aerospace electronics and systems.
The University of Toronto has an Institute of Aerospace Studies within its Faculty of Science and Applied Engineering. Programs include robotics, space systems design and spacecraft dynamics and control.