With a projected demand for 27,000 new civil airliners by 2030, the industry faces a shortfall in postgraduate level engineers to meet future industry needs. Aircraft engineers need a combination of technical and business skills for today's aerospace engineering projects. This course will broaden your understanding of aircraft engineering and design subjects and provide you with a strong foundation for career development in technical, integration and leadership roles.


  • Start dateFebruary
  • DurationMSc: three years part-time; PgDip: two years part-time; PgCert: two years part-time
  • DeliveryTaught modules 40%, group project 30%, individual research project 30%
  • QualificationMSc, PgDip, PgCert
  • Study typePart-time
  • CampusCranfield campus

Who is it for?

We recognise the challenge of undertaking part-time study while you are working. This course is specifically designed for people working in engineering or technical management positions in the aerospace industry who wish to study for an accredited master's degree while they are in employment.

You are required to attend a total of nine weeks of lectures over three years on a modular basis. The first year attendance pattern is two weeks in February, followed by one week in June and one week in November. Following a series of compulsory modules, you may choose three specialist optional modules in order to tailor the course to your particular interests and requirements.

Why this course?

This course provides accelerated development of engineering staff whilst delivering the right mix of technical and business skills for careers in the aerospace industry. The course will broaden your understanding of aircraft engineering and design subjects, and provide a strong foundation for career development in technical, integration and leadership roles. This accredited master's course supports your career development by meeting the further learning requirements for Chartered Engineer status. The group project allows you to gain hands on experience of development and design lifecycle, and the individual project allows you to investigate a topic that is of interest to your employer, with supervision from experienced staff.

Cranfield has been at the forefront of postgraduate education in aircraft engineering since 1946. We have a global reputation for our advanced postgraduate education and extensive applied research. You can be sure that your qualification will be valued and respected by employers.

Informed by industry

The Industrial Advisory Panel, comprising senior industry professionals, provides input into the curriculum in order to improve the employment prospects of our graduates. Panel members include:

  • Airbus UK - Filton,
  • BAE Systems,
  • Canadian High Commission,
  • Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform,
  • Marshall Aerospace,
  • Messier-Bugatti-Dowty,
  • RAF,
  • Military Aviation Authority.

Course details

The MSc in Aircraft Engineering consists of three elements: taught modules, a group design project and an individual research project.

Course delivery

Taught modules 40%, group project 30%, individual research project 30%

Group project

The group project is undertaken throughout year two of your studies and provides a wealth of learning opportunities. You will work together on a significant design project, progressing from concept to hardware. Each student takes on a technical design role related to a major structural, systems or avionics item as well as a management role such as Chief Engineer, Project Manager, Finance Manager etc.

Recent group projects have covered:

  • Turbo-jet powered unmanned air vehicles,
  • An advanced aircraft systems and avionics integration rig,
  • An electric ultralight aircraft,
  • The development of a hand controller for pilots with lower limb disability.

Individual project

The individual research project allows you to delve deeper into an area of specific interest of your choice, and you are encouraged to select a project that is of relevance to your sponsoring company. You will complete the individual project during year three of your studies. 

Recent individual research projects have included:

  • Study into the effect of environmental conditioning on the pull-through performance of countersunk bolted joints in thin composite structures;
  • The effect of alternative fuels on military aircraft fuel systems;
  • Conceptual design of a UAV with STOL capability for operation in remote, unpaved surfaces;
  • Development of a MATLAB linear model of the NIMROD pitch flight control system;
  • An industrial study of multi-disciplinary optimisation.


Keeping our courses up-to-date and current requires constant innovation and change. The modules we offer reflect the needs of business and industry and the research interests of our staff and, as a result, may change or be withdrawn due to research developments, legislation changes or for a variety of other reasons. Changes may also be designed to improve the student learning experience or to respond to feedback from students, external examiners, accreditation bodies and industrial advisory panels.

To give you a taster, we have listed the compulsory and elective (where applicable) modules which are currently affiliated with this course. All modules are indicative only, and may be subject to change for your year of entry.

Course modules

Compulsory modules
All the modules in the following list need to be taken as part of this course.

Introduction and Initial Aerospace Vehicle Design

    The aim of this module is to introduce you to the process of aircraft conceptual design. Additionally, this module will provide an introduction to the campus academic facilities and develop team working and communication skills.
    Team working and communication
    In addition to familiarising you with the design process the module is designed to encourage them to work together effectively as a team and to develop communication skills that will be further utilised throughout the MSc course in the GDP.
    Introduction to Aircraft Design
    • The design and development process.
    • Importance of requirements and mass.
    • Reliability and Maintainability.
    Aircraft Conceptual Design
    • Project design process and parametric techniques.
    • Flight path performance.
    • Drag and weight prediction: Drag sources, polar estimation, weight prediction methods.
    • Layout aspects: wing; powerplant; landing gear; fuselage.
    • Overview of stability and control: tailplane/elevator, fin/rudder, aileron layout.
    • Overall project synthesis.
Intended learning outcomes On successful completion of this module you should be able to:
1. Demonstrate a broad understanding of the multidisciplinary nature of aircraft design and manufacture.
2. Apply conceptual design methods and analysis to simple aircraft design problems and synthesise new designs. Evaluate those designs.
3. Develop transferable skills in team building, networking (including intersite communication) and independent learning.

Tools for Integrated Product Development


    ​The aim of this module is to introduce you to role of Computer Aided Design (CAD) technologies in a modern integrated Product Development process and provide hands-on experience of CAD using the CATIA v5 software.


    Introduction to Integrated Product Development (IPD) for aircraft design.

    Overview of Computer Aided Design, Manufacture and Engineering tools and their role in IPD.

    Introduction to CAD modelling techniques:

    • Solid Modelling.
    • Assembly Modelling .
    • Parametric Design.
    • Surface Modelling.

    Computer Aided Manufacture and Rapid Prototyping.

    Hands on CATIA exercises using CATIA v5.

    Aerospace Industry Case Studies.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this study you should be able to:

  • Analyse the role of Computer Aided Design and Analysis technologies in the aircraft development process. 
  • Distinguish between Computer Aided Design, Computer Aided Manufacture and Computer Aided Engineering and appraise the information flows between these tools. 
  • Critically evaluate appropriate CAD modelling techniques for a variety of design applications. 
  • Demonstrate ability to use Computer Aided Design software to create simple 3D models using solid, assembly and surface modelling techniques. 


Major Component Design and Manufacture


    The aim of this module is to explain the reasons behind the design choices to be made in the structural layout and manufacture of components such as wings and fuselages.

    • Wing design and manufacture. Fuselage design and manufacture.
    • Flaps and control surfaces: structural configuration and mechanisms.
    • Assembly and production processes.
    • Maintainability and accessibility.
    • Design for Assembly.
    • Design for Maintainability.
    • DFAM, Design for Manual and Automated Assembly. Future Flexible Assembly and Production Processes. Cost Considerations for New Technology Adoptions in Aerospace Assembly.
    • Digital Design for Accessibility and Maintainability. Augmented & Virtual Reality Approaches in System Installation and Maintenance.
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you should be able to:

1. Assess the constraints imposed on aircraft design by manufacturing and operational considerations.
2. Evaluate the influences of design for manufacture and maintainability on both structure and aircraft systems.
3. Evaluate the range of design solutions for aircraft component design.
4. Relate their acquired knowledge to an aircraft design problem.


Methodologies for Integrated Product Development


    This module aims to introduce you to several major topics associated with Engineering Integration in the context of what has been known in recent years as Integrated Product Development (IPD) in the Extended/Virtual Enterprise. The objective is to follow the process from the early stages of the product development lifecycle when the Prime has to deal with vague or difficult to quantify customer needs and to convert those to sound (functional) requirements and subsequently to design embodiments. The emphasis is on the architectural design enabling methods, including Model Based Systems Engineering (MBSE).

    Overview of the topics covered in the module. Included also are brief introductions to Quality Function Deployment (QFD) and Design Space Exploration, Optimisation and Trade-off Analysis.

    Object Oriented Approach to Systems Modelling  
    This lecture covers the fundamental concepts, including also a very brief introduction to the Unified Modelling Language (UML) and the Systems Modelling Language (SysML).

    Engineering Integration and Architectural Design
    Covered are the principles of the Axiomatic Design approach to systems architecting (function – means mapping). Included also is an exercise.

    System Life Cycle Processes
    Covers established standards for the engineering of systems such as ANSI/EIA 632 and ISO/IEC 15288.

    Information and Knowledge Sharing
    Covers the principles of information sharing and standards such as STEP (Standard for the exchange of product model data) and its modelling language EXPRESS.

    Systems Modelling
    Covers the basics of the Systems Modeling Language (SysML) – a de facto standard, general-purpose modelling language for systems engineering applications. A hands on exercise is included.

    MBSE – Hands on Practice
    This section includes hands-on sessions on Systems Architecting: Synthesis, functional and logical architectures, Assessment - Design space exploration and trade-offs. Cranfield MBSE tools AirCADia Architect and AirCADia Explorer are utilised.

    BAE Systems Case Studies
    Customer and Market Needs Definition- Mapping to Requirements, integrated design, MBSE, Design for X (Agile, Test, Supportability, Profitability), engineering integration, integrated product teams and organisation.
    Design for X - Modularity and Evolvability
    Covers the principles of modular and product family design. Trade-offs between modularity, evolvability and performance. Simple Exercise is included.
    Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)
    This lecture covers state of the art in PLM including also the need for information management in integrated product development, key elements of Product Data Management (PDM) such as Digital thread and Digital Twin, standards, integration and implementation issues.
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you should be able to:
1. Relate systems engineering principles such as axiomatic design and MBSE to representative architectural design problems.
2. Use the object-oriented approach and SysML to model a simple system and draw the requisite diagram(s) to describe the system.
3. Demonstrate a critical understanding of the concepts of information and knowledge sharing in engineering design.
4. Evaluate the potential trade-offs inherent in Design for X problems and formulate an investigation strategy. Specifically, for this module, the focus would be on trade-offs concerning performance vs. design for modularity, product families, and evolvability.
5. Describe the key elements of a PLM system and identify PLM implementation challenges.



    The aim of the Manufacturing module is to provide you with a range of issues associated with aircraft manufacturing. The module covers mostly technical, but with some management topics related to manufacturing processes and technologies. Topics include material and manufacturing process selection, modern manufacturing technologies such as 3D printing and composite manufacture. 

    • Key manufacturing concepts and processes.
    • Manufacturing systems.
    • Materials and manufacturing process selection.
    • Joining technologies.
    • Composite manufacture.
    • Automation technologies.
    • Lifecycle analysis in manufacturing.
    • Manufacturing cost engineering.
    • Quality engineering.
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you should be able to:
1. Critically evaluate and analyse manufacturing systems and their sustainability.
2. Distinguish key drivers for manufacturing process selection and applying basic principles to the solution of shape/property/cost problems.
3. Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the interrelationships between design, manufacturing, assembly, and validation.
4. Evaluate the capabilities and limitations of commonly used manufacturing processes.
5. Debate issues related to aerospace product realization effectively in Integrated Product Development Teams.

Elective modules
One of modules from the following list need to be taken as part of this course

Finite Element Analysis


    The course is aimed at giving potential Finite Element USERS basic understanding of the inner workings of the method.

    The objective is to introduce users to the terminology, basic numerical and mathematical aspects of the method. This should help students to avoid some of the more common and important user errors, many of which stem from a "black box" approach to this technique. Some basic guidelines are also given on how to approach the modelling of structures using the Finite Element Method.


    • Background to Finite Element Methods (FEM) and its application.
    • Introduction to FE modelling: Idealisation, Discretisation, Meshing and Post Processing.
    • Tracking and controlling errors in a finite element analysis. ‘Do’s and don’ts’ of modelling.
    • Illustration of basics of FEM using the Direct Stiffness method to define both terminology and theoretical approach.
    • Problems of large systems of equations for FE, and solution methods. 
    • Damage modelling and its validation process.
    • Digitalisation of materials and analysis for design optimisation.
    • NASTRAN application sessions.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you should be able to:

  • Appraise the underlying principles and key aspects of practical application of FEA to structural problems. 
  • Calculate the main mathematical and numerical aspects of the element formulations for 1D, 2D and 3D elements. 
  • Construct and analyse finite element models based on structural and continuum elements with proper understanding of limitations of the FEM. 
  • Evaluate results of the analyses and assess error levels. 
  • Critically evaluate the constraints and implications imposed by the finite element method. 

Fatigue, Fracture Mechanics and Damage Tolerance

    To provide an understanding of the theories of Fatigue and Fracture Mechanics, and to demonstrate how these methods and the damage tolerance design concepts are applied to the design and testing of aircraft structures and Airworthiness Certification. 
    • Design awareness: Philosophies of design against fatigue and design for damage tolerance: i.e. safe-life, fail-safe and damage tolerance.
    • Fatigue analysis: Traditional S-N curve approach: calculation of crack initiation life; mean stress effect, notch effect; Miner’s cumulative damage rule for variable amplitude loads.
    • Aircraft fatigue loads: Typical aircraft load spectra for use in the laboratory and computer simulation.
    • Fracture Mechanics: Basic Theory of Linear Elastic Fracture Mechanics (LEFM): Stress Intensity Factor, fracture toughness, strain energy release rate; plane stress and plane strain, crack tip plastic zone; residual strength; prediction of fatigue crack growth.  Numerical techniques for crack prediction and analysis.
    • Damage Tolerance: Damage tolerant design methods and technologies for composites and metals. Fatigue monitoring in flight/service and structural health monitoring. Inspection methods. CAA and FAA Regulations and their relationship to Airworthiness Certification Material selection.
    • Classroom exercise will be assigned during this module to further enhance the learning objectives. Completed work will be collected in by the tutors at the end of the module. 
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this study the student should:

  • Understand the importance of design against fatigue, especially for the aircraft structures; understand the concept of the damage tolerance design and fail-safe design
  • Command the basic knowledge of Linear Elastic Fracture Mechanics; know how to use the theory of LEFM to estimate residual strength and crack propagation life of a structure
  • Understand why metals break; demonstrate understanding of the various forms of material deformation and failure in metallic and composite structural components and composites to form a sound base for the skills required for fatigue analysis using both crack initiation and crack propagation approaches
  • Be able to select the most appropriate method and use fatigue data sheets for an engineering application
  • Have knowledge of regulatory authority requirements for airworthiness and damage tolerance.

Aircraft Loading Actions and Aeroelasticity

    This module is separated into two ten hour blocks. The aim of the first ten hours is to describe all the main loading cases, including those encountered on the ground, in the air and those induced by the environment. In addition, the student is introduced to the history and significance of the various airworthiness requirements. The aim of the second ten hour block is to introduce students to the concept of aeroelasticity, develop the importance of aeroelastic phenomena as applied to aircraft design and to provide students with methods of analysis and criteria. 

    Standard requirements, their application, interpretation and limitations, flight loading cases: symmetric manoeuvres, pitching acceleration, gust effects, asymmetric manoeuvres, roll and yaw. Structural design data: The effect of inertia on relief shear force, bending moment and torque diagrams. Factors: load factors, their basis and restrictions, repeated and random loads.


    Importance of aeroelastic phenomena. Aeroelastic requirements in aircraft design. Basics of static aeroelasticity: divergence, control efficiency and reversal. Unsteady aerodynamic loads on oscillating airfoils. Characteristics of flutter and important design parameters and criteria. Aeroelastic analysis and optimisation techniques. Gust response of rigid and flexible airframes and analysis techniques.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you should be able to:

  • Have an understanding of the origin of the design loads acting on a structural component
  • Have a critical understanding of the salient terminology, mathematics and methodologies employed in aeroelasticity
  • Have an understanding of the aeroelastic phenomena and criteria in aircraft design
  • Have an understanding of the fundamental theory and analytical methods and be able to apply them to analysing basic.

Detail Stressing

    To introduce you to the techniques of detail stressing as practised in the aerospace industry.
    • The structural function of aircraft components. Definition of Limit, Proof and Ultimate loads and Factors for Civil and Military aircraft
    • Basic formulas for stress analysis. Stress strain curves for metallic materials. Material equivalents. Concept of Reserve Factors (RF) and Margins of Safety (MS)
    • Material data. Design guidelines for mechanically fastened joints. Lugs. Strength of bolted/riveted joints. Usage of approved aerospace components
    • Structures under bending and compression. Euler buckling, flange buckling, inter-rivet buckling. Buckling of struts and plates. Shear buckling of webs
    • Generalised stress strain curves
    • Plastic bending and form factors
    • Rivet and bolt group analysis
    • Analysis of thin walled structures
    • Preparation of a detailed Stressing Report and Reserve Factor summary tables for a classroom exercise to be completed during this module.

Intended learning outcomes On successful completion of this module you should be able to:
  • Apply the principals and techniques in stress analysis and airworthiness requirements to size basic aircraft structural components.
  • Evaluate the strength of a component and determine its ability to support an applied load.
  • Compare, propose and select metallic materials suitable for use in aircraft structures.
  • Acquire transferable skills to allow effective communication with company stress engineers.

Introduction to Aircraft Structural Crashworthiness

    The aim of this module is to provide you with an understanding of the design of crashworthy aircraft structures and the considerations necessary when designing safe and crashworthy aircraft. The main purpose of crashworthy design is to eliminate injuries and fatalities in mild impacts and minimise them in severe but survivable impacts.
    • Overview of Aircraft Crashworthiness 
      - Objectives and Approach
      - Regulations
       - Human Tolerance
    • Crash Energy Management

    • Structural Collapse

       - Collapse of metallic and composite structural components
       - Component collapse vs. structural collapse

    • Introduction to methods for crash analysis

       - Hand calculations
       - Hybrid analysis methods
       - Detailed analysis methods
    • Role and capability of testing and simulation in the crashworthiness field
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you should be able to:

  • Examine relevant crashworthiness regulations.
  • Analyse the key issues of structural crashworthiness.
  • Examine the collapse of thick and thin-walled sections.
  • Evaluate the global collapse of structures.
  • Critically evaluate the crashworthiness of structures.

Design and Development of Airframe Systems

    To expand your knowledge of airframe systems, their role, design and integration. In particular, to provide you with an appreciation of the considerations necessary and methods used when selecting aircraft systems and the effect of systems on the aircraft as a whole. 
    • Introduction to Airframe Systems
    • Systems Design Philosophy and Safety
    • Knowledge Based Airframe Systems Design
    • Aircraft Secondary Power Systems
    • Aircraft Pneumatics Power Systems
    • Aircraft Hydraulics Power Systems
    • Aircraft Electrical Power Systems
    • Flight Control Power Systems
    • Aircraft Environmental Control
    • Aircraft Icing and Ice Protection Systems
    • Aviation Fuels and Aircraft Fuel Systems
    • Engine Off-Take Effects
    • Fuel Penalties of Systems
    • Ageing and Obsolescence of Aircraft Systems
    • Advanced and Possible Future Airframe Systems

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you should be able to:

  1. Identify the main airframe systems and explain their purposes and principles of operation; including Secondary Power Systems (Pneumatic, Hydraulic and Electric), Environmental Control Systems, Ice Protection Systems, Flight Control Power Systems and Fuel Systems.
  2. Formulate the requirements that drive the design of the main airframe systems.
  3. For each of the main airframe systems: differentiate the various architectures and reasons behind the differences; identify types of equipment and major components used and assess their principles of operation; perform basic sizing analysis for systems and major components.
  4. Appraise the effects of airframe systems power provision on aircraft power plants and analyse fuel penalties resulting from a given system’s presence on an aircraft by carrying out basic calculations.
  5. Examine the reasons for, and propose possible types of changes, that may occur in airframe systems in the near future.

Design, Durability and Integrity of Composite Aircraft Structures


    The course seeks to provide engineers with knowledge of polymer composite properties and behaviour relevant to their in-service performance durability and maintenance in aircraft structures


    Basic principles
    Introduction to composite materials comparison of relevant mechanical and service properties to those of metals; manufacturing process and relation of process and constituents to service performance.

    Regulatory background

    Requirements for fatigue and damage tolerant design in civil and military aircraft as implemented for polymer composite structures. Requirements for rotorcraft and for large fixed wing aircraft.

    Structural analysis

    Brief summary of methods and techniques for stress analysis and aircraft design using polymer composite materials.

    Fatigue analysis

    In-plane fatigue and failure processes; stiffness and strength changes under fatigue loading; fatigue notch effects in polymer composite laminates; cycle counting techniques and variable amplitude loading in metallic and polymer composite materials; life assessment and calculation procedures for design against in-plane fatigue.

    Delamination crack growth and fracture mechanics

    Basic theory of linear elastic fracture mechanics; strain energy release rate; applications to delamination crack growth in polymer composite laminates; delamination crack growth testing under static and fatigue loading; laboratory testing to measure Mode I and Mode II interlaminar fracture toughness (GIC and GIIC); comparison with stress intensity approaches in metallic materials; calculation of delamination behaviour of small samples and of aircraft structures. Damage tolerance issues in composites.

    Service degradation processes

    Impact damage in polymer composite laminates
    Response of polymer composites to out-of-plane impact loading; laboratory testing, effects of velocity, mass and impacting body shape on damage produced; damage morphologies, barely visible impact damage (BVID) concepts; effects of laminate constituents on damage resistance; effects of in-plane loading on impact damage growth and laminate strength; compression and fatigue after impact; design against impact damage.

    Service environment issues

    Including response to temperature and humidity; bird strike; in- service damage detection in composite structures; repairs; operator experience with polymer composite aircraft structures. Structural test requirements to prove airworthiness.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module a student should be able to:

  1. Describe the properties and manufacture techniques of polymer composite materials, and of the basic approaches to design with them.
  2. Categorise the aircraft service degradation processes of polymer composite laminates involving fatigue, impact loading, temperature and humidity fluctuations.
  3. Evaluate the effect aircraft service degradation processes have on strength and durability of the composite.
  4. Formulate structural and coupon sample test requirements to demonstrate the adequacy of the static and fatigue strength and damage tolerance of a composite aircraft structure.
  5. Critically appraise the design principles and relate them to structural safety considerations in the appropriate regulatory context, for both new designs and in- service aircraft.

Aircraft Performance for Aircraft Engineering

    The aim of this module is to provide an introduction to the performance and stability characteristics of a conventional aircraft by means of flight test.

    Please note that this is a two week module.

    Assessed elements:
    • Lift, drag and cruise performance
    • Longitudinal static stability, trim, pitching moment equation, static margins

    Non-assessed elements:
    • Static equilibrium and trim
    • Manoeuvrability: and manoeuvre margins
    • Lateral-directional trim and static stability
    • Introduction to dynamic stability

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you should be able to:

1. Critically evaluate the lift, drag and cruise performance characteristics of a conventional aircraft.
2. Critically assess Longitudinal static stability in the context of industry standard specifications.
3. Apply the principles of flight test to aircraft performance evaluation.

Flight Dynamics Principles for Aircraft Engineering

    To describe and demonstrate methods for the analysis of the linear dynamics, stability and control of aircraft and their interpretation in the context of flying qualities.
    • The Equations of Motion (10 lectures)
    • Development of the linearised equations for longitudinal symmetric motion and lateral directional asymmetric motion. Solution of the equations of motion:- aircraft response transfer functions and state space models. Aerodynamic modelling:- Aerodynamic stability and control derivatives, derivative estimation, modelling limitations. Stability: interpretation on the s-plane
    • Flight Dynamics (10 lectures)
    • Aircraft dynamics:- Stability modes, longitudinal dynamics, lateral-directional dynamics, reduced order models, time response. Flying and handling qualities:- Assessment, requirements, aircraft role, pilot opinion rating, flying qualities requirements on the s-plane
    • Flight control:- Introduction to stability augmentation, closed loop system analysis, the root locus plot, longitudinal stability augmentation, lateral-directional stability augmentation

Intended learning outcomes On successful completion of this module a student should be able to:
1. Derive and solve the small perturbation equations of motion for a conventional aircraft.
2. Assess the flying qualities of an aeroplane.
3. Recommend and design simple stability augmentation system strategies to rectify flying qualities deficiencies.

Introduction to Avionics


    To provide a comprehensive overview of avionics systems and infrastructures.

    • Historical overview of the development of avionics hardware.
    • The evolution of the cockpit.
    • Modern Human-machine interface and interaction.
    • Automation – evolution, the modern fly-by-wire autopilot and the flight management system.
    • Display technologies – HDD, HUD, HMD.
    • Airborne sensor systems.
    • Fundamentals of radio communication.
    • Navigation and communications systems – terrestrial and satellite-based systems, autonomous navigation systems, digital data links.
    • Radar – principle of operation, operational modes, radar cross section.
    • Avionics databuses – fundamental architectures; ARINC 429, 629, 664; MIL-1553.
    • Traffic and terrain surveillance and situational awareness systems – transponder, TCAS and EGPWS.
    • Principles of air traffic management.
    • Military applications – electronic warfare and countermeasures.
    • Product design considerations – design standards, fault tolerance and product life cycle.
    • Case study – a complete avionics installation.

    This module has an additional tutorial inside the cockpit of the large aircraft flight simulator. Students will be able to appreciate the cockpit layout design, understand information displayed to the pilot, and have the opportunity of flying the simulator. This tutorial is intended to enhance the learning process and the knowledge gained.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module a student should be able to:

  1. Explain the layout of, and role of the flight crew in, the modern cockpit.
  2. Demonstrate an understanding of the principles of operation, basic functions and properties of avionics systems.
  3. Identify the design and development strategies of avionics systems.

Introduction to Autonomous Systems

    To introduce the concept of autonomy and some of the technologies of autonomous systems particularly relating to systems of autonomous vehicles.
    • Concept and Definition of Autonomy and Autonomous Systems - Introduce concepts of autonomy, levels of autonomy, autonomous systems, some examples
    • General Requirements Considerations and Framework for Autonomous Systems - Overview of what should be considered when developing autonomous systems, general frameworks/architectures for autonomous system
    • Technology Enablers to Support Implementation of Autonomous Systems - Introduce technologies for implementing autonomous system, including such as AI, data fusion, intelligent decision support, GNC, C4I, as well as some challenges
    • Some Case Studies - Introduce some existing and emerging autonomous systems
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you should be able to:

Appraise the concept of autonomy, the main application domains and limitations of autonomous systems, as well as the potential problems and technical challenges. 

Evaluate the  lifecycle development processes of autonomous systems, and assess the general frameworks and architectures for autonomous systems. 

 Demonstrate a knowledge of some of the key technologies and principles for implementing autonomous systems and their implications for autonomous systems design. 

Through life System Effectiveness

    To examine the fundamental factors (e.g. reliability) that influence the availability of complex engineering equipment, the implications (e.g. cost) of it’s through-life support and its ultimate effectiveness (e.g. trade-off) throughout its lifecycle with regards to the value streams (i.e. Avoid, Contain, Recover, Convert).

    The concept and definitions for system effectiveness.

    • The definitions of ARM&M and logistics to deliver systems effectiveness in relation to the stated requirements.
    • Explain the value streams (i.e. Avoid, Contain, Recover, Convert). Definitions and measurement of logistics for supportability strategies and contracting.
    • Supportability Concepts and Logistics, their elements and interaction with AR&M.
    • Quantitative Requirements, Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) logistic delay, Mean Time to Repair (MTTR) and impact on service provided.
    • Understand failure rate, hazard rate, failure distributions and failure avoidance including failure analysis in design and use of R&M predictions.
    • Integrated Logistic Support (ILS) and impact on system effectiveness and system sustainment through life including the design of the support solution.
    • Understand the philosophy, scope and capabilities of ILS and Logistics Support Analysis (LSA) and associated systems thinking.
    • AR&M and supportability tools e.g. FMECA (Failure Modes, Effects and Criticality Analysis) and FTA (Fault Tree Analysis) techniques and Reliability Centred Maintenance (RCM).
    • Human Factors Integration (HFI) and impact on system effectiveness and system sustainment through life.
    • Testing and Evaluation and assurance of system effectiveness and sustainment for system operation and support.
    • Data collection and management/interpretation of data.
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you should be able to:

  • Appraise supportability concepts & logistics and how they contribute to system effectiveness and sustainment.
  • Analyse the measures of Availability, Reliability and Maintainability (AR&M), how they are manipulated and applied and how their delivery can be assured.
  • Evaluate the AR&M and logistic techniques, including testing and trials, used throughout the lifecycle.
  • Evaluate the management issues for AR&M and Supportability in providing operational availability at optimum Through Life Cost (including programme management, risk management and capability integration).
  • Critically evaluate the strategies to plan system effectiveness through-life by considering the value streams.

Teaching team

You will be taught by experienced Cranfield academic staff, many of whom have industrial experience. The course also includes visiting lecturers from industry who will relate the theory to current best practice. Past speakers include: Head of Worldwide Suppliers, Airbus, Head of Engineering Capability, BAE Systems, Chief of Manufacturing Engineering Processes and Capability, BAE Systems. The Course Director for this programme is Dr Craig Lawson.


The Aircraft Engineering MSc is accredited by Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) and the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS) on behalf of the Engineering Council as meeting the requirements for further learning for registration as a Chartered Engineer (CEng). Candidates must hold a CEng accredited BEng/BSc (Hons) undergraduate first degree to show that they have satisfied the educational base for CEng registration.

Your career

This course will provide you with the tools and experience to help enhance your career opportunities in the aerospace industry, enabling you to progress further in your present discipline, or move into other specialist or integration roles. Networking with students from different backgrounds is valuable to gain an appreciation of how other companies work.

This course can be used for Chartered Engineer status, which can result in new career opportunities for the future.

Cranfield’s Career Service is dedicated to helping you meet your career aspirations. You will have access to career coaching and advice, CV development, interview practice, access to hundreds of available jobs via our Symplicity platform and opportunities to meet recruiting employers at our careers fairs. Our strong reputation and links with potential employers provide you with outstanding opportunities to secure interesting jobs and develop successful careers. Support continues after graduation and as a Cranfield alumnus, you have free life-long access to a range of career resources to help you continue your education and enhance your career.

How to apply

Click on the ‘Apply Now’ button to start your online application.

There is a non-refundable application fee of £75 for this course for 2024-25 entry onward.

Find out more about the application fee and how to pay it.

See our Application guide for information on our application process and entry requirements.