Fort Worth Aerospace, Aviation Companies Hit New Heights
Like childhood pals, Fort Worth and the aviation industry have grown up together.
Since the World War II era, the city's heavy military presence, including the former Carswell Air Force Base, along with its mild climate, have made it a breeding ground for all aspects of aerospace and aviation enterprise.
Aviation Brings Jobs To Fort Worth
“Our culture and traditions make us unique,” says Tom Harris, senior vice president of operations for Hillwood, a real estate development company.
Hillwood subsidiary Alliance Air Services manages Fort Worth Alliance Airport, which houses divisions of more than 240 companies, including Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin, Bell Helicopter, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and numerous aviation-related suppliers and manufacturers, Harris says. Nearly 30,000 people work at the airport, making it a significant employment hub in the region.
Years of aerospace and aviation expertise have given the Fort Worth region a big piece of the aviation pie. Harris says the region has 9 percent to 10 percent of the nation’s total aerospace workers.
Lockheed Martin Brings Big Business To Fort Worth
A major building block of the Fort Worth aerospace community is Lockheed Martin’s Aeronautics Division, which builds military jets including the F-16 and the F-35 and employs more than 13,000 people in the region. The division had $13.2 billion in sales in 2010, including the Fort Worth headquarters and other operations in California, Georgia and other smaller locations.
Norman Robbins, senior manager of community relations with Lockheed Martin, says Fort Worth’s local military presence is invaluable. “The amount of support here is overwhelming. A lot of Air Force personnel were based here and they ended up retiring here,” Robbins says.
Lockheed Martin manufactures its F-35 in the area. The airplane is part of the largest defense program in the nation’s history and will likely have a lifespan of 50 years, Robbins says. The company is still building the F-16. The project, which began in 1975, likely has another 10 years of production.
Local expertise is important to the company. “Many of our employees are retired military employees; they have experience and knowledge. So the people who sell our aircraft aren’t the usual salesmen,” Robbins says.
Aside from its current heavy-hitting military products, the company takes advantage of the local education base and continually considers new products and innovations. Lockheed takes education seriously and subsidizes the cost of advanced degrees. It also hires employees from local universities, who are recent graduates just starting their careers.
“The Fort Worth and Dallas area have a large number of good universities, several with advanced engineering and degree programs,” says Joe Stout, director of communications with Lockheed Martin.
Bell Helicopter Is A Major Military Supplier
Bell Helicopter, a Textron company, is another area success story that builds on local military expertise and the strong education base. “Operating in and around Fort Worth allows us to attract talent from all over North Texas and allows our employees to live in an area ranked as one of the top places in the country to live and work,” says Robert Hastings, senior vice president for Bell, which has about 5,700 employees in Fort Worth.
The company’s Bell 429, a light twin helicopter, is a relatively recent offering. Hastings says the model is one of the most advanced versions on the commercial market today. The company also received a U.S. Army contract for cabin upgrades to the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior. The craft is a proven staple in the Army’s combat operations fleet, Hastings says.
Other products produced by the company include the V-22 Osprey, the AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter and the UH-1Y Venom utility helicopter.
Detailed information and resources on the aviation and aerospace industry in Fort Worth TX can be found at the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce website.