Aviation, Aerospace Industry Employs 200,000 in Texas
An F-35 by Lockheed Martin, assembled in Fort Worth, TX
From the earliest efforts to get men off the ground, then launch them into space, aviation and aerospace innovation has been synonymous with Texas.
The state's vast aviation and aerospace sector supports an ever-broadening range of activities that encompass military and civilian sectors, general defense and homeland security, commercial aviation, manufacturing and space.
Airplane and aerospace component manufacturing, pilot training, aircraft maintenance, military aircraft development and top-level aerospace research are all part of the landscape that numbers 1,665 companies in Texas.
The industry employs more than 200,000 workers at an average annual salary of more than $62,700, according to the Office of the Governor’s Texas Aerospace & Aviation Industry Report. Air transportation and aircraft manufacturing alone employ 60,000 and 34,000 workers, respectively.
The legacy of the Lone Star State in miliary air defense dates to 1910, when the first-ever military flights took place at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio.
Today, Lockheed Martin, L-3 Communications, Bell Helicopter Textron, Boeing Co. and Raytheon are among the globally known aerospace and defense companies with major Texas operations.
At its Texas facilities, Lockheed Martin makes an array of military and defense products including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, F-35 Simulator, F-22 Raptor, Orion spacecraft and missiles. The company employs 20,000 workers here, the largest concentration of Lockheed workers in any state.
Bell Helicopter produces the V-22 Ospry here in partnership with Boeing, as well as other helicopters. Sikorsky Aircraft makes the UH-60 Black Hawk and CH-53K at facilities in Fort Worth, Corpus Christi and Beeville.
New Investment Soars
And good for Texas: the companies keep locating within the state or expanding already substantial operations in the state.
Boeing, which has 6,000 employees in Texas, announced plans in January 2012 to add up to 400 additional jobs to its San Antonio-based operations for aircraft maintenance, modification and support on executive jets, including Air Force One - the Boeing 747s that ferry the president, vice president and other government officials.
San Antonio is where the company's aircraft maintenance and modification work is performed on the C-17 Airlifter, KC-135 Refueling Tanker and C-130 transport aircraft. The site also is involved in work on Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner aircraft. According to the company, Boeing has more than 1,300 suppliers in Texas, with purchases of more than $1.9 billion annually.
Fort Worth-based Bell Helicopter, which employs 7,000 workers in Texas, plans to build its next state-of-the-art commercial helicopter in Amarillo. Known as Magellan, the project is reportedly a $500 million investment designed to produce craft for long-range transport of 200 nautical miles out to sea.
Spearheading industry efforts is the state’s Office of Aerospace, Aviation and Defense, which Gov. Rick Perry – a former Air Force pilot – created in 2003 to support the growing cluster and work closely with industry decision makers and other governmental agencies to coordinate development.
Attracting Federal Contracts
The strength and depth of the industry in Texas has helped draw a range of federal contracts.
In 2009, the federal government supported contracts totaling $4.4 billion to companies conducting aerospace-related research and development in Texas.
Department of Defense contract dollars in the Lone Star State during fiscal year 2010 were more than $30.8 billion, nearly 6 percent of all defense contract spending nationwide.
Johnson Space Center
A crown jewel in Texas' aerospace and aviation sector is the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston. Since its establishment in 1961, the center has been at the crossroads of research and discovery that have opened new frontiers in space exploration.
The presence of the center has made Houston an aerospace hub and attracted dozens of contractor companies. NASA estimates the JSC and local aerospace contractors directly employ more than 18,000 civil service and contract workers, with an estimated gross payroll totaling $1.7 billion.
Armadillo Aerospace in Heath, east of Dallas, develops reusable rocket-powered vehicles. It is developing a manned suborbital spacecraft for space tourism and later to offer orbital space flight.
Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, as it is known, designs and manufactures advanced rockets, satellites and spacecraft. The company, headquartered in Hawthorne, Calif., has extensive rocket development and testing operations in the Waco area.
BayTech: New Opportunities
While the end of the Space Shuttle program meant rollbacks at the Johnson Space Center, an effort is under way to tap the expertise of more than 3,500 former space program personnel.
Kim Morris, director of the Bay Area Houston Advanced Technology Consortium, or BayTech, a nonprofit group that links business and academic participants to create technology solutions for federal agencies and the private sector, says preserving the aura of space exploration in Texas is a priority.
“These people are highly trained professionals – ‘superstar’ technologists – possessing the intellectual capability to develop breakthrough technologies in energy, life science, IT, the privatization of space and in other arenas,” she says.
BayTech has received $500,000 to fund the Texas Innovation Program, which will help link these highly skilled aerospace workers with private-sector partners to create new companies, expand existing businesses, add jobs and keep that expertise in the state.
"These men and women, and the groundbreaking technology they have developed, are important resources for the Houston area and our state," Perry said in announcing the award. "We want to keep them here, and the opportunities created by this partnership will help link these men and women with innovative companies that can bring more technologies to market."
Morris says the consortium will seek to “create collaborative partnerships designed to discover new technology solutions which will, ultimately, lead to new commercial products and services.”
Texas Aviation & Aerospace Industry Facts
- Texas has 1,665 aerospace and aviation industry establishments
- Workforce for the sector totals 200,000 in the state
- Lockheed-Martin, the state's largest aerospace company, employs 20,000 workers in Texas
- Average annual income for an aerospace and aviation industry employee in Texas is $62,700
The history of military aviation began in Texas in 1910, when the first-ever military flights occurred at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio
Top 15 Aviation and Aerospace Employers
(By number of employees)
Lockheed Martin – 20,000
L3 Communications – 11,000
Bell Helicopter/Textron – 7,000
AMR Corp. – 6,500
Boeing – 6,000
Southwest Airlines – 4,800
American Airlines – 4,100
Raytheon – 4,000
United Continental Airlines – 3,700
Triumph Aerostructures – 2,000
Pratt & Whitney Engine Services – 1,300
BAE Systems – 1,125
Gulfstream Aerospace – 1,000
Weber Aircraft; Bombardier Aerospace – 900 (each)
Federal Express – 850
Source: Texas Aerospace & Aviation Industry Report, Office of the Governor