Long Beach’s aerospace sector reinvigorated by new companies, innovation with an eye on space – Long Beach Business Journal – Long Beach News

Long Beach’s aerospace sector reinvigorated by new companies, innovation with an eye on space – Long Beach Business Journal – Long Beach News


Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket takes off from the company’s New Zealand complex, Dec. 16, 2018. The ELaNa-19 mission delivered NASA nanosatellites into orbit. Photo by Trevor Mahlmann courtesy of Rocket Lab.

Aviation and aerospace roots run deep in Long Beach—about 80 years to be exact. The sector has ebbed and flowed through the decades but has remained a constant force in the city. In the past, it was military and commercial aircraft. Today, companies have their sights set higher: Earth’s orbit and beyond.

In 1940, construction began on an 11-building Douglas Aircraft facility on what is now the 220-acre Douglas Park. Business was booming due to World War II. At one point, some 160,000 workers were assembling planes in Long Beach, including many “Rosie the Riveters.”

The war’s conclusion led to a cut in government contracts and the loss of thousands of jobs. Still, plane production continued in Long Beach under the name Douglas—bombers, Globemasters and eventually commercial airliners with the DC-8 and 9.

In 1967, Douglas merged with McDonnell Aircraft Company to form the McDonnell Douglas Corporation, which continued the city’s aerospace and aviation legacy with the production of the DC-10, the C-17 Globemaster III and more.

In the mid-1990s, Boeing bought McDonnell Douglas for $13.3 billion and rebranded its airliners. But in 2006, Boeing ceased production of its commercial craft in Long Beach, leaving only the C-17 in production in the city with a small fraction of the workforce that once pumped out as many as one aircraft every hour.

The C-17 operation was shuttered in 2013.

Though airplane production in Long Beach is gone, Douglas Park today is home
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