Aerospace Service Industry Emerges at Former San Bernardino Air Base

The aerospace firms congregated at the airport over the past two years after hearing about its facilities and aerospace tenants through the industry grapevine. They form a one-stop shop for customers.

Goodrich Corp. acquired Rohr in 1997. The Riverside plant, which assembles components for aircraft engines, became a subsidiary of the Goodrich Aerospace/Aerostructures Group.

The Goodrich plant employs about 545 people. The company about 12 years ago implemented a lean manufacturing program in which unnecessary manufacturing steps are eliminated, officials said.

The Norton base is now home to the AllianceCalifornia industrial park and San Bernardino International Airport. The Air Force transferred ownership of the industrial park property in 2000 to the Inland Valley Development Agency. The airport, hangars and nearby buildings are operating on a 55-year lease from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Northrop Grumman acquired TRW's defense and auto parts divisions in 2002 for $7.8 billion. In 2006 Northrop moved the former TRW operation to a new, 85,000-square-foot site in an industrial area of San Bernardino. The facility is known as the missile engineering center and currently employs approximately 215 people. It handles work for the intercontinental ballistic missile Minuteman III modernization program and other missile projects.

Aerospace companies need alternative revenue streams, "so they can weather the storms, the ups and downs in the aerospace business," said Mike Gallo, president and chief executive officer of Kelly Space & Technology. Cooperative groups such as the research center companies can bid together on big projects and refer customers to each other.

Kelly Space organized the Aerospace Research and Development Center. The company and other entities are establishing three startup companies using technologies from other tenants at the airport.

One startup, Laser Strip, is developing a laser technology for stripping paint from airplanes leaving no environmental waste. The technology has potential applications in medicine, cauterizing wounds and cleaning burns with little or no fluid loss. AeroPro, a jet aircraft painting company at the airport, is developing the lasers.

Another startup is using composite materials to create bullet-proof doors for Humvees that pop back into form after being hit. Medina Holdings International, which makes police and rescue boats, sells the composite materials for aircraft repairs. Another startup is developing explosives detectors that use the same computer technology found in aircraft navigation systems.

"What we're building out here is commercial sustainment," Gallo said. Kelly Space hired 10 people over the past eight months for a total of 38 employees, Gallo said.

Gallo is working to lease a 30,000 square-foot building near the Kelly Space facility that can serve as a machine shop for aerospace companies. In the void left by down-sized aerospace corporations, service and research companies have popped up.

Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville, formerly George Air Force Base, has attracted aerospace companies providing maintenance, aircraft painting and other services. The airport and Victor Valley College are creating aircraft mechanic and engine maintenance training programs for high school students to help fill hundreds of jobs at the airport.

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