The New Aerospace Sector
By George White
East Central Florida is still known as “The Space Coast,” but considering the history and recent industrial growth, led by development of the Melbourne International Airport, a moniker like “Aviation Alley” might be more appropriate.
Just ask Melbourne International Airport’s public information officer Lori Booker, who has been busy over the first half of 2014 with press releases touting substantial progress and new developments. “Today, I feel like Melbourne is magnified on the map,” she said.
And among the industries that are fueling that positive train of thought is Embraer, one of the world’s leading aircraft manufacturers. Throughout its 40-year history, Embraer has been involved in all aspects of aviation including design, development, manufacturing, sales and technical support for commercial, agricultural and executive aviation. Embraer also offers integrated solutions for defense and security services.
The company’s campus at Melbourne International Airport currently includes an 80,000-sq.ft. assembly and paint facility for Phenom 100 and Phenom 300 business jets. The list price of the Phenom 100 is $4.2 million and of the Phenom 300 is $9 million. The campus also includes a 58,000-sq.ft. Customer Center and a 75,000-sq.ft. Engineering and Technology Center.
More Here & More On the Way
Embraer also plans to build a manufacturing facility, with a total capital investment of $76.1 million, for the Legacy 450 and Legacy 500. The new total surface area is 236,000 square feet, 2.5 times the current surface area, company officials said.
To date, Embraer has produced over 75 Phenom 100 and Phenom 300 jets since production began in late 2011, valued at over $400 million and will reach the landmark of 100 by early 2015. A total of 220 new jobs have been created and 600 more jobs will be added over five years, beginning in 2016. And to top it all off, the Embraer Engineering and Technology Center (EETC) opened its doors in September, which is located on 13 acres of land facing the existing Phenom 100 and Phenom 300 final assembly facility and the Embraer Executive Jets Customer Center, which were opened in 2009 and 2011, respectively.
The EETC will conduct engineering and development activities for both product and technology development across Embraer’s business lines with the first assignments primarily focused on executive jet interiors. It will include a laboratory for the development and testing of materials and interior components. Features include 3D computer aided design, computational fluid dynamics, finite element modeling, 3D virtual reality center, prototype capabilities and sophisticated laboratories and test equipment.
Some 70 engineers have already been hired and have been operating in a temporary facility near the airport since 2012. Employment is scheduled to ramp up to a total of 200 by 2016.
The Swiss Select
Another aviation success story for Central Florida involving Melbourne International Airport is the location of a growing number of operations by MidairUSA, an international aviation company headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Midair chose to locate its major U.S. aircraft maintenance operation at Melbourne International Airport in 2011 in part because of the unique expertise of the local workforce including workers laid off with the retirement of the Space Shuttle program, said Branch Manager Randy Buol. “The talent and skill level of workers in the area is very conducive to locating an aviation-related business here,” Buol said.
For over a decade, Midair exclusively provided support for Transaero Airlines, Russia’s second largest carrier. The Rome, N.Y. and Melbourne-based operations have successfully maintained services for Transaero, facilitating sustainability and bolstering growth of the fleet from three to over 100 aircraft, according to the Midair website.
The new $28 million 180,000-sq.ft. facility, expected to be complete Nov. 1, will include two hangar bays designed to accommodate Boeing 747-400 aircraft for interior reconfigurations, as well as extensive maintenance, repair, painting and overhaul functions. “We needed a hangar to do heavy maintenance on 747s. It’s going to be the biggest hangar at the airport for sure,” Buol said.
Booker added, “There is not an airport in this world that is not a little jealous of Melbourne International Airport right now.”
The Oldest Is Still the Largest
Another major aviation-related industry in Central Florida, and in many ways the precursor for more recent aerospace developments, is Lockheed Martin. With more than 55 years in Central Florida, Lockheed Martin’s Florida operations are primarily located in the Orlando area with additional sites in Lakeland, Ocala, the Space Coast, Riviera Beach, Oldsmar and several other locations throughout the state.
When Lockheed Martin (then the Glenn L. Martin Co.) opened its first Orlando office in 1956, it began a long legacy of growth and community support to the region. Today, Lockheed Martin is the largest industrial employer in the state with more than 11,000 employees. Approximately 7,900 of the state’s Lockheed Martin employees live and work in Central Florida.
The Training and Logistics Solutions (TLS) line of business has operations in Orlando and is a leading industry provider of programs that teach service men and women skills to accomplish their most challenging missions – from flying the world’s most advanced aircraft, to navigating a convoy through an urban environment. It provides contracting vehicles that enable customers to execute missions in a matter of days. With logistics, TLS provides supply chain and asset management, complete life cycle solutions, as well as test and support equipment. TLS has approximately 4,500 employees, according to company officials.
Missiles and So Much More
Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control (MFC) is an industry-leading designer, developer and manufacturer of precision engagement aerospace and defense systems for military customers that include the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, NASA and dozens of foreign allies.
The corporation is a leader in the research, development and production of electro-optic and smart munitions systems, and is a pioneer in the field of versatile, high-performance missile and rocket technology. MFC is also a leader in technologies related to millimeter wave radar, image and signal processing, advanced materials, electronic packaging and systems integration. MFC also provides logistic support services for U.S. Special Operations Forces and offers a wide range of products and services for the global civil nuclear power industry and the military’s green power initiatives.
MFC’s major programs in Orlando include Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS); Air-to-Ground Missile Systems, such as HELLFIRE II, DAGR, legacy M299, Modernized M299 and Joint Air-to-Ground Missile (JAGM); Javelin and Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) missiles; LANTIRN ER; and Sniper Advanced Targeting.
And it’s not just jobs. Lockheed Martin also has a strong tradition of social responsibility that impacts the Central Florida community. In 2013, Lockheed Martin employees logged more than 112,000 volunteer hours in Central Florida and contributed more than $1.2 million to local charities. Thirty senior leaders serve as board members for 50 local nonprofit organizations in Florida.
“As one of Orlando’s largest employers, Lockheed Martin has put our region on the map as an international leader in aviation, aerospace and defense. We’re pleased to have Lockheed grow its Orlando presence not only because of its economic impact, but also the difference that Lockheed’s employees make in our community through their dedication to furthering STEM education and preparing the workforce of the future,” said Rick Weddle, president and CEO of the Orlando Economic Development Commission, in March following a Lockheed Martin expansion announcement.
A Step Toward Human Spaceflight
In September, NASA awarded a pair of contracts worth $6.8 billion to SpaceX and Boeing, to transport astronauts to the International Space Station from Cape Canaveral. The much-anticipated announcement marked the return of astronauts being launched into space from U.S. soil since the Space Shuttle, ending reliance on Russia’s Soyuz rocket at $71 million per seat. If all goes to plan NASA will see its astronauts launched from the U.S. by 2017. Frank Dibello, CEO of Space Florida, said in a prepared statement, “It advances a new era in space transportation and is the next major step toward restoring U.S. capability to fly astronauts to the ISS and beyond. Both Boeing and SpaceX have already invested significant time and resources into establishing commercial crew operations here in Florida and we look forward to working hand-in-hand with both companies to make their upcoming missions successful.”