Best Aerospace Companies to work for
Are you considering a career in aerospace? This article will go over a list of 15 top aerospace companies you should consider if you are studying mechanical engineering, or looking for the best aeronautical and similar companies that hire aerospace engineers.
If you also wondering which university would be best for aerospace careers, check out our Top 10 Mechanical Engineering Courses and Degrees in the USA or Top 10 Mechanical Engineering University Courses in the UK articles.
“Aerospace companies” are usually aerospace manufacturers, and they research, design, build, test, sell and maintain aircraft/aircraft parts, missiles, rockets and spacecraft/spacecraft parts. This can include but not limited to: space vehicles, aircraft engines and propulsion units. The aerospace industry is made up of military, industrial and commercial applications.
It must be noted that aerospace is different to airspace, which is classed as the air that directly above the Earth’s surface. The end of air and start of space is generally known to be about 100km from the ground, and this is determined by the air pressure being too low that high up.
The Aerospace Industry
As you can imagine, there are many aerospace manufacturers in the modern world, ranging from those who have been around for a century or more, to those who have been founded relatively recently. In 2017, the size of the global aerospace industry was worth about $838 billion. This will only continue to rise due to the increasing number of travellers around the globe, as flying becomes more accessible to more people, while airplane inspection standards also becoming more rigorous and leading to more airplane retirements. It is estimated that the global aerospace market will hit $16 trillion by 2038.
The United States has the largest aerospace industry in the world, with 49% of the entire global market located there. Then there is a huge gap in the market to second place France with 8.2% and China following in third with 7.3%. China’s aerospace industry is growing very fast in recent years, and they are estimating that over the next 20 years they will acquire $1.3 trillion worth of aircraft. This will in turn create more business (about $1.6 trillion) in aftermarket service for these aircraft.
According to a report from FlightGlobal.com, here are the top 10 aerospace companies in the world, based on their sales revenue:
The Boeing Company is a multinational corporation that is based in America, they design, manufacture and sell airplanes, missiles, rockets and satellites around the world. It was founded by William Boeing in 1916, and has since become one of the biggest aerospace companies in the world, due to it being the United States biggest aerospace exporter.
Boeing holds lots of records across the aerospace industry; they created and developed the very first successful airliner in the 707, the first airliner to sell over 1,000 planes in the 727, the first airliner to sell over 10,000 planes in the 737, the first widebody airliner in the 747, the first airliner created entirely with a computer in the 777 and they built the first airliner to be made up of mostly composite materials in the 787 (pictured).
Boeing has its headquarters in Chicago, Illinois, and has many divisions within its company:
- Boeing Capital
- Boeing Commercial Airplanes (BCA)
- Boeing Defense, Space & Security (BDS)
- Boeing Global Services
- Boeing NeXt
- Boeing Shared Services Group
- Engineering, Test & Technology
- Phantom Works
It was ranked 24th on the “Fortune 500” list in 2018 and recorded $93.3 billion in sales in 2017.
Airbus SE (societas Europaea) is a Dutch multinational corporation, however the “Europaea” allows it to be registered as European rather than just Dutch. Airbus made the most airliners in the world in 2019, and also had the most airliner orders. They design, manufacture and sell military and civil aerospace products around the world and they also manufacture aircraft.
The company is registered in the Netherlands, but its shares are traded in France, Germany and Spain.
Airbus’s most adventurous move throughout its history was when they created the huge A380, which was a double decker airplane that was so massive they had to totally redesign airport infrastructure to ensure that it would fit in them! The company ventured into the large aircraft division and found some success, and some notoriety with their A300-600 Super Transporter planes, which quickly became a crowd favorite due to its ridiculous design. Shaped like a Beluga whale, it was given the nickname Beluga almost immediately, and there was even a larger version of them made, called the BelugaXL (pictured)!
The company is divided into three main divisions:
- Commercial Aircraft (Airbus S.A.S.)
- Defence and Space
Most of the company’s business is conducted through Airbus S.A.S., this is a French company based in Blagnac, just outside of Toulouse.
3. Lockheed Martin
Lockheed Martin Corporation is an american company that deals in aerospace, arms, defense and security, and is interested in expanding their business worldwide. Their main office is based in North Bethesda, Maryland. Their workforce consists of around 110,000 people around the world as of January 2020.
Lockheed Martin is the world’s biggest defense contractor, while also being one of the world’s largest aerospace, military support and security companies. Half of the company’s total sales are to the United States Department of Defense, with the United States Department of Energy and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) also being some of their biggest customers.
Lockheed Martin has set quite a few records over the course of its short 25 year history, some of which include: the world record for the highest sustained altitude in horizontal flight at 25,929 meters, which is 85,069 feet, this was set by the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. The same plane set another record on the very same day, setting the absolute speed record of 2,193.2 mph (miles per hour), which is also 3,529.6 kph (kilometers per hour or approx. Mach 3.3.
It has four main divisions:
- Missiles and Fire Control (MFC)
- Rotary and Mission Systems (RMS)
4. General Electric (GE) Aviation
General Electric Company (GE) is an American multinational company registered in New York City but has their main offices in Boston. They were ranked at 21st in the “Fortune 500” list in 2019, and was one of the first 12 companies included on the initial Dow Jones Industrial Average in 1896. It has severely underperformed the market in recent years, with it turning a negative profit in the last 3 out of 4 years.
General Electric Aviation is credited with building America’s first jet engine in 1941. They came up with the design based on Sir Frank Whittle’s design, and within six months they had developed the I-A engine. This included a centrifugal-flow compressor, which gave this engine a very powerful 4,000 pounds of thrust! The I-A engine led to the production of General Electric J-31, which powered the first US jet aircraft (the Bell XP-59A Airacomet).
They have the company divided up into many segments:
- Additive manufacturing
- Digital industry
- Renewable energy
- Venture capital and finance
They have their primary business divisions named as:
- GE Aviation
- GE Additive
- GE Digital
- GE Capital
- GE Global Research
- GE Power
- GE Healthcare
- GE Renewable Energy
5. Northrop Grumman
Northrup Grumman Corporation is an American company that operates in the global aerospace and defense technology markets. It has around 90,000 employees and is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of weapons and military technology providers. It ranks at 108th on the “Fortune 500” list in 2020 and has annual revenue of over $30 billion.
Northrup Grumman is also the world’s biggest shipbuilder, and the only builder of aircraft carriers for the US Navy. However, it is better known for creating the most expensive plane ever built, coming in at $2.1 Billion was the B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber.
It has its headquarters in West Falls Church, Virginia and has won many awards for its innovation in the aerospace industry. It was founded in 1994 and has four main divisions that it operates its business out of:
- Aerospace Systems
- Innovation Systems
- Mission Systems
- Technology Services
Raytheon Technologies Corporation is an American conglomerate based in Waltham, Massachusetts. Going by market capitalization and revenue, it is one of the biggest aerospace and defence manufacturers in the world. They research, develop and manufacture advanced technology products in the aerospace and defence industry, this can include but is not limited to avionics, cybersecurity, drones and aerostructures.
Raytheon is very well known for it’s missile systems, especially the Patriot missile (pictured). They also manufactured “bunker buster” missiles that actually contained depleted Uranium. Their most famous missile was one that struck Baghdad market in 2003, during the second gulf war.
As mentioned previously, Raytheon Technologies is a result of the Merger between UTC and the Raytheon Company. Due to the merger, the company now has four main divisions:
- Collins Aerospace
- Pratt & Whitney
- Raytheon Intelligence & Space
- Raytheon Missiles & Defense
7. United Technologies Corporation
United Technologies Corporation (UTC) was an American multinational conglomerate with their headquarters based in Farmington, Connecticut. However, it has now merged with the Raytheon Company in April 2020 to form the new company Raytheon Technologies.
It dealt in numerous areas, including but not limited to: HVAC, elevators and escalators, aircraft engines, security, aerospace systems, and many more. It also researched, developed and manufactured many of the aforementioned products in-house.
UTC’s company, Pratt & Whitney created an air-cooled Wasp radial piston engine, which was way further ahead that the other engines at that time which kept the growth of the company going in the 1930s & 40s. One of the biggest moments in their history was World War 2, in which they provided half of all of the engines for the aircraft involved, over 360,000 engines!
About 10% of UTC’s business came from the United States Department of Defense, and was split up into many departments:
- Collins Aerospace
- Otis Elevator Company
- Pratt & Whitney
- United Technologies Research Center (UTRC)
- UTC Climate, Controls & Security
Safran S.A. is a French multinational company that designs, researches and manufactures aircraft/rocket engines. It is primarily an aerospace and defense company, and is located in Paris. It is a result of a merger between SNECMA (an aircraft and rocket engine manufacturer) and SAGEM (a security company), and also took control of Zodiac Aerospace, which expanded its aerospace business significantly.
Safran produced the very first rotary engines for airplanes in 1909, called the Gnome Omega. It employs over 95,000 people and generated over €24.64 billion in 2019.
Its business is divided into three main segments:
- Aerospace Propulsion
- Aircraft Equipment, Defense and Aerosystems
- Aircraft Interiors
9. Rolls Royce
Rolls Royce Holdings PLC is a British multinational engineering company that owns Rolls Royce, which was founded in 1904 and provides design, manufacture and distribution services for the aviation industry among others. It is the second largest developer of aircraft engines in the world, and also does a lot of business in the marine and energy fields.
Rolls Royce had two very successful designs for engines that were to serve in the Second World War, they were the Rolls-Royce Merlin and the Rolls-Royce Griffon. The Merlin was powering the Supermarine Spitfire, Hawker Hurricane, fighter/bomber de Havilland Mosquito and the Lancaster/Halifax heaver bombers.
Their main headquarters is at Kings Place, London, and has a market capitalisation of £4.656 billion, as of 2019. It manufactures a vast array of products, including turbojets, turbofans, turboshafts, turboprops and rocket engines.
Leonardo S.p.A. is an Italian multinational company that specialises in aerospace, defense and security. It has its headquarters in Rome, Italy, has over 180 sites around the world and is named after Leonard da Vinci! A section of it owned by the Italian government, which owns about 30% of the company and is their largest shareholder. According to 2018 revenues, it is the eighth biggest defence contractor around the world.
Leonardo is also active in the helicopter market, they develop, manage helicopter designs while also providing after sales support and pilot training. They create several different models of helicopters, with their weights ranging from 1.8 ton single engine to 16 ton three-engined.
The company is divided up into five main departments:
NASA stands for National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and it is classified as an independent agency of the U.S. federal government. NASA controls the U.S. space program, and they also conduct space and aeronautics research. It was founded in 1958, and has its headquarters in Washington, D.C. They lead the United State’s efforts for space exploration and have been responsible for the famous Apollo Moon landing, the Space Shuttle and the Skylab Space Station.
NASA are involved in the development of many new projects, including the Space Launch System, Commercial Crew vehicles and the Orion spacecraft. They are also overseeing the Launch services program, who oversee launch operations and manage the countdown on NASA launches that are uncrewed.
It has many programs that are focused on understanding the Earth better – through the Earth Observing System, exploring the Solar System – with new robotic spacecraft like New Horizons, advancing heliophysics and researching astrophysics through the Science Mission Directorate’s Heliophysics Research program, the Great Observatories and other related programs.
Going forward, NASA has a renewed focus on climate change and reducing its carbon footprint on the world. They are focusing on increasing the efficiency and safety of current jet engines while also reducing CO2 emissions. Read about How to get a mechanical engineering job at NASA.
SpaceX or Space Exploration Technologies Corp., is an American space transportation and aerospace manufacturer that has its headquarters in Hawthorne, California. Elon Musk founded the company in 2002 to decrease the cost of space travel, with the ultimate goal of colonizing Mars! They have created many new rocket engines and launch vehicles, including the Starlink satellite constellation, the Dragon cargo spacecraft and they have transported humans to the International Space Station on the Dragon 2 spacecraft.
SpaceX has been a groundbreaking company in its relatively short history, one of its main achievements has been the development of the very first privately funded propelled-by-liquid rocket to travel to orbit with the Falcon 1 in 2008. Some of their other very impressive missions have involved being the first private company to launch, reach orbit and recover a spacecraft with the Dragon in 2010, and the first vertical take-off and propulsive landing for an orbital rocket in 2015 with the Falcon 9.
Not stopping there, SpaceX plans to unveil Starship, which will attempt to be the largest rocket ever and will be fully reusable, with its debut scheduled for the early 2020s. Musk has been vocal about his goals of reducing the cost of space travel by a factor of 10, with a goal of $500 per pound or less. His conquest to bring spaceships to Mars is also going full steam ahead, as two unmanned spacecraft are planned to travel to Mars 2022. These will be to seek out sources of water and build a propellant plant, and further spaceships will follow in 2024 with people! After that, Musk’s lofty goal of colonising Mars will begin, however, these plans are already experiencing significant delays.
13. General Dynamics
General Dynamics Corporation (GD) is an American defense and aerospace company. It is the fifth-biggest defense contractor in the US as of 2019, and is the sixth-biggest in the world by sales. It was formed in 1954 and is headquartered in Reston, Fairfax County, Virginia. It came into existence through multiple divestitures and mergers in the post-Cold War era. They make and provide missiles, submarines, rockets, tanks, fighters, electronics and warships to all military services.
It is segmented into the following areas: Aerospace, Combat Systems, Information Technology (IT), Marine Systems and Mission Systems. One of its most successful ventures was the Fighting Falcon F-16, which first flew in January 1974 and proved to beat its competition in performance testing. Once production began in 1975 orders surged and totaled more than 4,000, making it the most successful project in the company’s history, and once of the most successful western military ventures since World War 2.
14. Blue Origin
Blue Origin is an American sub-orbital spaceflight services company and aerospace manufacturer. It was founded by Jeff Bezos in 2000, and is headquartered in Kent, Washington. At its head, the CEO Bob Smith is leading the company’s charge to make space travel cheaper and more reliable through making spacecraft reusable.
They employ an incremental approach to adapt their suborbital flight to orbital flight, with a focus on rocket-powered vertical takeoff and vertical landing. They have not yet flown with passengers as the company has pushed back the date for commercial flights since 2018.
They entered the orbital spaceflight technology business in 2014, and supplied rocket engines to other aerospace companies before announcing plans to make and fly their own orbital vehicle. Testing for this “New Glenn” project is still in its testing phase as of 2021.
Blue Origin have big plans for the future with plans for a moon lander called “Blue Moon” scheduled for 2024.
15. Virgin Galactic
Virgin Galactic is an American aerospace and spaceflight corporation. Its ultimate purpose is to develop commercial spacecraft and give tourists the ability to go on suborbital space flights and launches for their space science missions. Virgin Galactic was founded by Richard Branson, and he purchased five SpaceShipTwo spacecrafts along with two WhiteKnightTwos to get the company off the ground (excuse the pun). Branson then predicted that Virgin Galactic would have its maiden voyage in 2008, but this was delayed after a disaster in 2007 that ended up killing three people during testing.
The maiden journey was set back further by an in-flight crash of the VSS Enterprise in 2014. Virgin Galactic finally achieved their goal by completing their first suborbital flight in December 2018, reaching an altitude of 82.7 kilometers. They then took another big step in the right direction by completing a flight in February 2019 that included three people, including one passenger.
Virgin Galactic has had its set-backs, but they continue to develop and progress towards their ultimate goal of having commercial space flights. With their new ships – the VSS3 and VSS 4, they will hope to achieve just that.
There you have it, the top 15 aerospace companies in the world, based on sales revenue. Are there any companies that you feel deserve to be on the list, or do you work at one of these companies? Let us know with a comment down below!