The Race for Aerospace

Louisiana Soars to New Heights

For more than 50 years, innovation, investment and infrastructure have helped establish Louisiana as a national leader in aerospace manufacturing.

Louisiana has been an aerospace leader for decades. The state played host to the first airmail route, debuted the first passenger flights of Delta Airlines, and orchestrated the rocket assemblies that fulfilled President John F. Kennedy’s lunar vision.

Today, in a 43-acre facility in eastern New Orleans, Boeing engineers and technicians are building the core of the Space Launch System. A Lockheed Martin team is crafting Orion crew capsules that will return manned flights to the moon, to an asteroid — even to Mars.

“Our infrastructure and expertise bring us projects from around the world,” says Bob Fudickar, director of business development for NASA. “The concentration of assets and knowledge in aerospace in this area is huge.”

Louisiana’s leadership in flight continues with new investments and ongoing operations by global aerospace firms Northrop Grumman and Bell Helicopter, in addition to Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Other aerospace applications range from Haynes International’s manufacture of precision titanium tubing for avionics systems in Arcadia, located in north Louisiana, to AvEx, a global leader in aircraft exterior painting in south Louisiana’s New Iberia. Not far away in Schriever, K&B Industries has harnessed its experience in oilfield machining to launch a new aerospace components manufacturing division.

“The concentration of assets and knowledge in aerospace in this area is huge.”

–Bob Fudickar Director of Business Development for NASA

Top-ranked infrastructure, best-in-the-nation workforce training, and incentives tailored to aerospace firms combine to give Louisiana decisive advantages for new investment.

Geography is another advantage. Louisiana belongs to the four-state Aerospace Alliance, a regional group whose concentration of aerospace operations along the Interstate 10 corridor represents one of the biggest clusters of space and flight activity in the world.

Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans

NASA Pushes Innovation at its Michoud Assembly Facility

In Louisiana, NASA’s projects represent some of the most ambitious work in its history. At NASA’s 2.2 million-square-foot Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Boeing is manufacturing and assembling the 200-foot core stage of the space agency’s Space Launch System rocket, the most powerful rocket in history. The state-of-the-art manufacturing and welding process Boeing uses on the SLS includes a “friction stir” welding tool that is the largest of its kind in the world.

Also at Michoud, NASA contractor Lockheed Martin is building the Orion space capsule that the completed 322-foot SLS rocket will launch into deep space in the coming years. Additional aerospace firms at Michoud include flight-hardware maker Vivace Corp. and Orbital ATK, which produces space-launch vehicles.

Groundbreaking aerospace manufacturing is not new to Louisiana. Work on the SLS and Orion builds on a five-decade aerospace legacy at Michoud, where the first stages of the Saturn rockets that carried astronauts to the moon in the 1960s were built. The external fuel tanks for NASA’s Space Shuttle program also were manufactured at Michoud.

The site’s additional assets include 400,000 square feet of available commercial space, a deepwater port, an extensive network of massive overhead cranes, and the knowledge and expertise of 3,000 engineers and other professionals. Michoud also is home to the National Center for Advanced Manufacturing, a partnership between NASA, the State of Louisiana, Louisiana State University and the University of New Orleans.

“Clearly, our longstanding relationship with NASA is paying big dividends for Louisiana and New Orleans,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “Our National Center for Advanced Manufacturing, coupled with our aerospace training initiative at Nunez Community College, are positioning the Michoud Assembly Facility for a new aerospace era that will drive innovation, employment and economic growth for Louisiana. We are happy to be home to NASA’s assembly operations — more than 2 million square feet under roof — in one of the world’s most advanced manufacturing facilities that is attracting new investment and jobs for our people.”

Aerospace Excellence Beyond the Crescent City

Louisiana’s aerospace innovations are not confined to New Orleans. Recently announced investments in the state include the production of the cabin subassembly for the Bell 525 Relentless, a two-pilot commercial helicopter that will carry up to 20 passengers. The Bell project builds on the helicopter industry’s deep roots in Louisiana, where the craft are vital to the energy industry.


A Texas-based subsidiary of Textron, Bell Helicopter will focus on certification of its 525 rotorcraft by the Federal Aviation Administration in 2018, before entering production.  

The helicopter cabins will be assembled in Louisiana at a $37.8 million state-funded facility at Lafayette Regional Airport. Once the site is fully operational, it will support 95 direct jobs.

“Louisiana is a proven and growing aerospace market and has access to a skilled, experienced workforce as well as key resources and suppliers.”

- Robert Hastings, Bell Helicopter’s Executive Vice President of Strategic Communications and Chief of Staff

Notable additional elements of Louisiana’s aerospace sector include Metro Aviation of Shreveport, which converts helicopters for medical and law enforcement use by clients on six continents; and helicopter maintenance and modification firm Arrow Aviation of Broussard.

The state supports new and existing aerospace operations with targeted payroll and infrastructure incentives, development-ready certified sites, low operating costs and an expedited permitting process.

Northrop Grumman services the U.S. Air Force's fleet of KC-10 air tankers at Chennault International Airport.

Louisiana’s aerospace sector includes Chennault International Airport in Lake Charles, where Northrop Grumman maintains and overhauls key refueling and surveillance aircraft for the U.S. Air Force.

Chennault’s assets include a 17-inch-thick, 10,700-by-200-foot runway designed for the largest aircraft in the world; 13 million square feet of concrete and about 1.5 million square feet of hangar, office and warehouse space.

Chennault’s 1.5 million square feet of hangar and building space includes a recently completed 112,500-square-foot, $18.5 million hangar that is large enough to accommodate massive, wide-body C-5 transport planes. Four of its five certified development sites have rail frontage and all have direct access to the facility’s runways.

Chennault International Airport, Lake Charles

Louisiana’s Airports OfferSpace for Development

Several other Louisiana airports offer development-ready industrial property, a minimum runway length of 7,500 feet of runway space, and a minimum of 100 acres available for aviation-related development. They include:

England Airpark offers a number of buildings for commercial or industrial use.

  • England Airpark in Alexandria, which features an inland port, rail and interstate access, two runways, 24-hour air-control operations, no noise or operating restrictions and a new fuel farm.
  • Shreveport Regional Airport, which features two runways, 500 acres of green space, a 24/7 control tower and two development-ready industrial parks. The Shreveport Industrial Park includes more than 200 development-ready acres with rail and port access.
  • Acadiana Regional Airport in New Iberia, home to Aviation Exteriors (AvEx), with an 8,000-foot runway, 1,200 development-ready acres and a 5,000-foot lighted runway designed for amphibious aircraft.
  • Baton Rouge Metro Airport, with two runways, aircraft parking space large enough to accommodate a Boeing 757, and interstate, rail and deepwater-port access.
  • Monroe Regional Airport, with three runways, two primary sites for aviation development and additional sites optimal for industrial or commercial development.

Top-Flight WorkforceTraining Programs

LED FastStart®, Louisiana’s No. 1-ranked state workforce training program, functions as an additional strategic advantage for aerospace firms in Louisiana. Offered at no cost to qualified firms, LED FastStart designs and implements recruiting, screening and training programs tailored to meet the real-world needs of employers.

Workforce training initiatives designed by LED FastStart reflect the specific needs of employers and incorporate task-based training modules that simulate precise elements of their advanced manufacturing processes.  

Drawn from private industry, LED FastStart trainers can design training for aerospace workers in topics as specialized as particular riveting techniques, depending on employer needs. Bell Helicopter and NASA contractors at Michoud are among the aerospace operators in Louisiana that have looked to LED FastStart for recent and continuing training and recruiting needs.

“It’s a big-time advantage for aerospace operations,” NASA’s Fudickar says. LED FastStart recently partnered with Southern University in Shreveport to enhance its two-track, aircraft technician program, in which the FAA-based curriculum includes hands-on lessons aboard a retired cargo jet.

SOWELA Technical Community College in Lake Charles, South Louisiana Community College in Lafayette and Baton Rouge Community College likewise offer FAA-certificate programs in airframe and power plant mechanics.

Propelling theAerospace Sector

Louisiana’s custom incentives bolster the state’s workforce and infrastructure advantages. For competitive projects that involve substantial job creation, major investment and a majority of sales to out-of-state customers, the state’s Aerospace Manufacturing Payroll Incentive can provide up to a 12 percent payroll rebate over 10 years. Participating firms are further eligible for either a rebate of state sales taxes on capital expenditures, or a 1.2 percent project facility expense rebate.

South Louisiana Community College is one of many education institutions offering degrees in aviation maintenance.

Louisiana’s Digital Interactive Media and Software Development Incentive is available to aerospace projects. The incentive covers software developed for avionics applications, such as navigation, communications, radar, defense and systems with a customer-interface. Eligible projects receive a 25 percent refundable tax credit for payroll expenditures and an 18 percent refundable tax credit for qualified software production expenses. Qualifying firms receive the balance as a refund, if the amount of tax credits exceeds the company’s state tax liability.

Additionally, aerospace projects that create high-paying jobs qualify for the state’s Quality Jobs Program. For up to 10 years, the program provides cash rebates of up to 6 percent on 80 percent of gross payroll for newly created jobs. Effective July 1, 2018, the rebate will apply to 100 percent of gross annual payroll. Quality Jobs also provides a sales tax rebate on capital expenditures or a 1.5 percent rebate on capital investment.

Louisiana’s biggest draw, though, is the extraordinary aerospace assets already in place.

In a November announcement event, Louisiana Gov. Edwards and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu highlighted continued growth at Michoud Assembly Facility, where Boeing has created 200 new aerospace jobs during 2017 and now employs more than 600 people in the state.

They also recognized new expansion projects at Michoud by Advance Cutting Solutions and Sinter Metal Technologies. ACS will create 30 new jobs for the production of composite materials for the wind energy industry, while Sinter Metal Technologies will bring new precision metal manufacturing, an initial 15 jobs, and foreign direct investment from Liechtenstein and Turkey.

“We meet with firms from around the world to tell them about what we have in Louisiana in aerospace assets,” Fudickar says. “There is a low bar of entry to investing here, because we already have everything that’s needed.”

Interested in sharing? Here's how.