Aerospace Industry: Strength in Numbers

  • 4,370: aerospace employees (2013)
  • 10.3%: aerospace cluster growth (2012-2013)
  • $125,700: average annual salary, +28% vs. national average (2012)

With United Launch Alliance, Sierra Nevada Corporation, UP Aerospace Inc, and Surrey Satellite together making one serious impact in Denver South, this evolving industry manufactures products and systems for commercial, military and space exploration applications.

Aerospace

The aerospace cluster includes companies that develop products and systems for commercial, military, and space applications. Colorado’s  development, design, and manufacture of guided missiles, space vehicles, satellites and other communications equipment, and navigation and detection instruments. Companies in the aerospace cluster also produce planetary spacecraft and launch systems and provide mission support.

Colorado is an aerospace center of excellence with support from four military commands, eight major space contractors, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) research activities, and several universities involved in expansive space research. Colorado has 150 businesses classified as aerospace companies, and more than 400 companies and suppliers providing space-related products and services. Direct employment in the aerospace cluster totals 24,890 private sector workers and approximately 28,750 military personnel. These 53,640 workers in the aerospace cluster support an additional 110,250 workers in all industries throughout Colorado, bringing direct and indirect employment supported by the aerospace cluster to 163,890 workers.

A number of the state’s key aerospace businesses and facilities are located in the Denver South region. The Denver South region is well positioned between the diverse mix of Department of Defense military installations in Colorado Springs, Buckley Air Force Base in the eastern metro area, and several renowned research entities across the nine-county Metro Denver and Northern Colorado region. Aerospace employment in the Denver South region represents 21 percent of all aerospace employment in the nine-county region.

  • The Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum unveiled plans for the Exploration of Flight facility at Centennial Airport. The Exploration of Flight will focus on the future of aerospace and aviation research and provide flight- and experience-based activities, including observation decks and a flight tower. Building completion is slated for mid-2015.
  • Aero Electric Aircraft Corporation (AEAC) is planning to offer the first FAA certified 2-seat solar-electric airplane called “Sun Flyer”.  The Sun Flyer configuration is ideally suited for the critically important flight training market. The company, headquartered at Centennial Airport south of Denver, is targeting the replacement of tens of thousands of significantly aged legacy training aircraft.  The electric-powered Sun Flyer offers very low operating cost, low aircraft unit cost, low noise and the complete elimination of aviation gasoline exhaust pollutants. Assembly recently commenced on the initial 2-seat prototype for Sun Flyer, and flight tests will be conducted at Centennial Airport in the future. Company leadership includes AEAC’s founder and CEO, George Bye, who is also CEO of Bye Aerospace and former CEO of the Javelin jet program, and President Charlie Johnson, former President and COO of Cessna. For more information, go to www.SunFlyer.com.
  • Bye Aerospace is an experienced world leader in developing solar-electric aircraft. The company is developing an advanced, high altitude, long endurance solar-electric unmanned aerial vehicle called “StratoAirNet.” The company also launched Aero Electric Aircraft Corp., which is planning to offer the “Sun Flyer,” the first certified U.S.-sponsored, practical, all-electric airplane serving the aviation flight training markets. Assembly has commenced on the 2-seat prototype Sun Flyer. Company leadership includes George Bye, Founder and CEO and former CEO of the Javelin jet program, and President Charlie Johnson, former President and COO of Cessna. For more information, go to www.ByeAerospace.com.
  • Centennial-based United Launch Alliance (ULA) celebrated 12 launch successes in 2011, including an Atlas V rocket carrying NASA’s Juno probe to Jupiter in August 2011. The solar-powered spacecraft was constructed by Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company to study the planet’s upper atmosphere and investigate Jupiter’s internal dynamics and will reach the planet in August 2016.

 

  • ULA received notable awards:
    • The company won a $1.5 billion U.S. Air Force contract for nine rocket launches in 2012 and ULA employees in Decatur, Alabama will work on the rockets slated for completion in 2014.
    • NASA awarded ULA a $446 million contract to launch two next-generation weather monitoring satellites into orbit in 2015 and 2017 on its Atlas V rockets. The satellites will be used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to improve observation and detection of meteorological phenomena and will provide accurate weather forecasts on Earth.
    • The U.S. Air Force awarded ULA’s subsidiary, United Launch Services LLC (ULS) a $398 million contract for two satellite launches scheduled in late 2014. The ULS team will install an Air Force Mobile User Objective System-4 satellite on the Atlas V rocket and launch a global positioning system satellite aboard a Delta IV rocket.

 

  • Highlands Ranch-based launch services company UP Aerospace Inc. received two NASA contracts to integrate and fly technology payloads on its SpaceLoft rocket for NASA’s commercial, suborbital reusable platforms in 2011. NASA is purchasing flights from private companies for later use by scientists and engineers. UP Aerospace was one of seven companies selected for NASA contracts totaling $10 million.
  • California-based XCOR Aerospace Inc. and ULA partnered to develop lighter-weight, lower-cost rocket engines. Partially as a result of successful results achieved in 2010 to develop new aluminum alloy engine nozzle technology using modern manufacturing techniques, the new engine technology could lead to more-capable space flights and new engines for ULA’s Atlas V and Delta IV launch vehicles.

The aerospace cluster consists of 19, six-digit North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes including search, detection, and navigation instrument manufacturing; guided missile and space vehicle manufacturing; satellite telecommunications; and research and development.

Denver South

Nine-County Region

U.S.

Direct Employment, 2011

4,110

19,500

356,270

Number of Direct Companies, 2011

20

110

4,970

One-Year Direct Employment Growth, 2010-2011

9.4%

1.7%

-0.5%

Five-Year Direct Employment Growth, 2006-2011

163.7%

11.9%

-1.7%

Avg. Annual Direct Employment Growth, 2006-2011

21.4%

2.3%

-0.3%

Direct Employment Concentration

2.0%

1.1%

0.2%

Note: Data reflects only private aerospace employment in the region and excludes military employment.
Sources: Dun & Bradstreet, Inc. Marketplace database, July-Sept. 2006-2010; Market Analysis Profile, 2011; Development Research Partners.
  • The aerospace cluster directly employed 4,110 people in the Denver South region in 2011.
  • Aerospace companies employed two percent of the Denver South region’s total employment base, compared with 1.1 percent and 0.2 percent employment concentrations in the nine-county region and nationwide, respectively.
  • The majority of the Denver South region’s aerospace employees manufactured guided missiles and space vehicles (49 percent) and search and navigation equipment (45 percent).

Wages

Total nine-county payroll in the aerospace cluster was more than $2.1 billion in 2010. The 2010 average annual salary for an aerospace worker in the nine-county region was $110,860, compared with the national average of $90,870.

Denver-Aurora-Broomfield MSA Occupational Salaries, 2010 Annual Average

Atmospheric and Space Scientists

$106,480

Aerospace Engineers

$106,440

Software Developers, Systems Software

$95,190

Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technicians

$65,190

Computer-Controlled Machine Tool Operators, Metal and Plastic

$43,120

Note: Mean annual salary data is for the 10-county Denver-Aurora-Broomfield Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) consisting of Adams, Arapahoe, Broomfield, Clear Creek, Denver, Douglas, Elbert, Gilpin, Jefferson, and Park Counties.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Metropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, May 2010, www.bls.gov.
  • Approximately 20 aerospace companies operated in the Denver South region in 2011.
  • Nearly 29 percent of the Denver South region’s aerospace companies employed fewer than 10 people, while 14 percent employed 250 or more.
  • Roughly 96 percent of the Denver South region’s aerospace companies were located in Arapahoe (86 percent) and Douglas (10 percent) Counties.

The Colorado Space Coalition (CSC) is an organization of industry stakeholders working together to make Colorado a center for excellence in space exploration and aerospace innovation. Military, academic, research and educational leaders are members of the Coalition and the CSC Directory includes over 300 aerospace companies and suppliers in the State.

Five key reasons aerospace firms choose to locate to the region include:

  1. The ability to recruit and retain qualified employees;
  2. Proximity to vendors and customers;
  3. Low to moderate cost of doing business;
  4. Pro-business state and local governments;
  5. Close proximity to colleges and universities.

Aviation

than 70 commercial reliever and general aviation airports throughout the state, the nine-county Metro Denver and Northern Colorado region supports a strong foundation for the aviation cluster that includes nearly 600 businesses.

Centennial Airport is the center of the aviation industry in the Denver South region located just minutes from the Denver Tech Center and only 13 miles from downtown Denver. Centennial Airport is the major local reliever airport for Denver International Airport and is one of the premier business airports in the U.S., generating more than $897 million for the region annually. The airport is an international facility with a 24-hour U.S. Customs Office and 24/7 FAA-staffed control tower and services such as Flight for Life, law enforcement, medical flights, flight schools, and aircraft maintenance are based at the airport. Centennial Airport has four award-winning Fixed Base Operators providing all customer service needs to small aircraft and jets alike. Further, the airport’s three runways range from 4,800 feet to 10,000 feet in length, including a CAT I ILS, and no flight delays. Centennial Airport is also a secure gateway to Reagan National Airport and it has the most decorated snow and ice control team in the Americas.

NOTEWORTHY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE DENVER SOUTH REGION’S AVIATION CLUSTER INCLUDED:

  • Arapahoe County-based Air Methods Corp. acquired both Texas-based United Rotocraft Solutions and OF Air Holdings Corp. and its subsidiaries including Omniflight Helicopters Inc. The company plans to improve its competitive cost structure, enhance its existing service to local communities, and expand its 300 helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft fleet.
  • Mayo Aviation, based at Centennial Airport, is the charter operator of Pilatus Business Aircraft’s PC-12 NG single-engine turboprop and was hired to transport a one-of-a-kind, multi-million dollar satellite across the nation in 2011. The PC-12 NG offers the capability to take-off and land on short airstrips and has the largest cabin in its class.

THE DENVER SOUTH REGION FOSTERS AN ENVIRONMENT OF INNOVATION AND COLLABORATION AMONG THE AVIATION, AEROSPACE, SOFTWARE, AND CLEANTECH INDUSTRIES.

  • The Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum unveiled plans for the Exploration of Flight facility at Centennial Airport. The Exploration of Flight will focus on the future of aerospace and aviation research and provide flight- and experience-based activities, including observation decks and a flight tower. Building completion is slated for mid-2015.
  • Arapahoe County-based Jeppesen unveiled its Mobile FliteDeck iPad application that provides en route moving map functionality to assist pilots in implementing a paperless cockpit environment. The new application will replace 38 pounds of charts, handbooks, and logbooks that will save 326,000 gallons of jet fuel each year. United Airlines was the first major airline to switch to the technology.

Aviation Economic Profile

The aviation cluster consists of 41, six-digit North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes including aircraft manufacturing, passenger and freight air transportation, airport operations, and air traffic control.

Denver South

 Nine-County Region

U.S.

Direct Employment, 2011

1,320

14,650

1,021,260

Number of Direct Companies, 2011

100

590

46,110

One-Year Direct Employment Growth, 2010-2011

2.3%

-2.7%

2.0%

Five-Year Direct Employment Growth, 2006-2011

-24.7%

-4.0%

-0.4%

Avg. Annual Direct Employment Growth, 2006-2011

-5.5%

-0.8%

-0.1%

Direct Employment Concentration

0.6%

0.8%

0.7%

Sources: Dun & Bradstreet, Inc. Marketplace database, July-Sep 2006-2010; Market Analysis Profile, 2011; Development Research Partners.

  • The aviation cluster directly employed approximately 1,320 people in the Denver South region in 2011.
  • The large decline in employment between 2006 and 2011 was due to the closure of Adam Aircraft at Centennial Airport in 2007, resulting in the loss of 500 jobs. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2008.
  • Nearly 59 percent of the Denver South region’s aviation cluster employees worked in scheduled and nonscheduled air transportation, which includes both passenger and freight services. Airports and other facilities that provide flight support and related services employed another 20 percent.
  • More than 94 percent of the Denver South region’s aviation employees worked in Arapahoe County.

Wages

The 2010 average annual salary for aviation employees in the nine-county region was $47,060, compared with the national average of $59,400. Total nine-county payroll in the aviation cluster reached nearly $709 million in 2010.

Denver-Aurora-Broomfield MSA Occupational Salaries, 2010 Annual Average

Air Traffic Controllers

$120,400

Airline Pilots, Copilots, and Flight Engineers

$73,980

Aircraft Mechanics and Service Technicians

$58,210

Aircraft Cargo Handling Supervisors

$51,720

Avionics Technicians

$48,310

Aircraft Structure, Surfaces, Rigging, and Systems Assemblers

$42,800

Note: Mean annual salary data is for the 10-county Denver-Aurora-Broomfield Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) consisting of Adams, Arapahoe, Broomfield, Clear Creek, Denver, Douglas, Elbert, Gilpin, Jefferson, and Park Counties.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Metropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, May 2010, www.bls.gov.
  • ing.
  • Approximately 100 aviation companies operated in the Denver South region in 2011.
  • Nearly 72 percent of the Denver South region’s aviation companies employed fewer than 10 people, while one percent employed 250 or more.
  • More than 37 percent of the Denver South region’s aviation companies provided airport operations and support services. Another 26 percent provided aircraft repair services and scheduled or nonscheduled air transportation, consisting of both passenger and freight services. The remaining companies provided aircraft and parts manufacturing, maintenance, and flight train

Major Aviation Companies:

Air Ambulance Specialists, Inc.
www.airaasi.com
Mayo Aviation, Inc.
www.mayoaviation.com
Air Methods Corp.
www.airmethods.com
Precision Aircraft
www.precision-aircraft.com
Jeppesen
www.jeppesen.com
Signature Flight Support
www.signatureflight.com
Key Lime Air
www.keylimeair.com
Straight Flight
www.straightflight.com

Regional Success Stories


United Launch Alliance
United Launch Alliance (ULA) consolidated its 1,800 employees to a single campus in Centennial. ULA signed 10-year leases for 453,000 square feet in a trio of buildings. ULA is a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing that combines production, engineering, test and launch operations.

Sierra Nevada Corporation
Sierra Nevada Corporation, an engineering firm that develops high-tech electronics, communication systems, and space technology, expanded its operations creating 200 new jobs. The company has leased space at Centennial Airport.

Raytheon
Raytheon based in Aurora, was awarded a pair of NASA contracts including the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS). 300 high paying jobs were added in 2010 – 2011.