Long Island was long known as the “Cradle of Aviation.” People might assume that these important, high-tech industries have long since moved on, but Long Island actually remains home to some of the biggest concentrations of aerospace engineering jobs per capita in the United States.
If you go online, you might come to the conclusion that Long Island’s gilded history in these industries is long behind it. But, in fact, the area’s aerospace industry is thriving.
The Rise, Fall, and Rise of Long Island Aerospace – a Story of the Times
Long Island experienced an aviation golden age between 1919 and 1939. Around that time, two dozen major defense and aerospace companies were active on the island. At the peak of production, 80% of the manufacturing business in the area was defense-related.
During World War II, 100,000 individuals were employed in the industry. The air war in Europe was defined by aircraft built in Farmingdale, while the Pacific was defended by their counterparts built in Bethpage. At the time, almost 100% of every plane completed was built on the island.
Although World War II was the peak of military aviation production, the aerospace industry was still a major player through the Cold War. Big names in aerospace worked alongside NASA to explore space and the moon. With the fall of the USSR, however, it was no longer necessary for U.S. companies to generate massive air power.
The industry needed a completely new focus. Many companies failed to adapt.
The New Commercial Aviation Era Begins
Just as 80% of operations on Long Island were once defense-related, now 80% are commercial.
Many of the production facilities on the island have been significantly reduced in size or have changed ownership. Although some of the biggest names of the World War II have closed their doors, a number of new companies are now working on cutting-edge technology.
Aerospace companies are now driven by long-term, low-cost business models. They have global operations and they generate thousands of well-paid, high-tech jobs throughout New York.
As companies like Boeing and Airbus strive to make faster, sleeker, and safer aircraft that will help connect the world, Long Island will still have a role to play in both aerospace and defense.