The Austin Company Celebrates 100 Years of Serving the Aviation, Aerospace and Defense Industry

Since 1916, The Austin Company has served the aviation, aerospace and defense industry, and is proud to celebrate 100 years of service to this industry in 2016 – a centennial that we share with The Boeing Company and Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine.

Throughout these 100 years, Austin architects, engineers and constructors have accomplished great feats and devised many innovations for the aviation sector. We designed and built the largest industrial building in the world for The Boeing Company in Everett, WA. Our innovations include bi-fold hangar doors, fiberglass wall panels for WWII bomber plants that saved metal, induced airflows to improve ventilation in large plants, and rolling work platforms to speed schedules.

These innovations have contributed to the success of our clients by enabling them to operate in more efficient environments, optimize the flexibility of their operations, and meet aggressive schedules.

Aviation is in Our DNA

Wilbert Austin, son of our founder Samuel Austin, joined his father’s business in 1904 after graduating with his engineering degree. He conceived the then heretical idea of combining engineering and construction in one firm to offer a complete facility service. This was the dawn of The Austin Method®.

Wilbert was also fascinated with flight. His passion drove the Company’s pursuit of and growth in the budding aviation industry.

In 1916, America was on the brink of entering the war in Europe. The aviation industry had progressed from primitive gliders to innovative and more sophisticated military aircraft required to support the war effort. In this time of anticipation and innovation, The Austin Company saw great potential in utilizing The Austin Method® and its standard building designs to fast-track complex projects.

Implementation of The Austin Method® coincided with the growth of the aviation industry.

Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Corporation

Placing ads in The Literary Digest in 1916, Austin promoted the speed in which it could design and build industrial facilities. These ads caught the eye of representatives at Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Corporation in Buffalo, NY.

Glenn Curtiss, one of the early visionaries in American aviation, was a driving force in aircraft development. Given his reputation and America’s entry into the war, Curtiss received a large contract from the U.S. government to build aircraft for the U.S. Army and Navy.

As a result, Curtiss developed a simple, easy to fly, two-seat training aircraft – the JN-4 “Jenny” for the Army and the N-9 seaplane version for the Navy. Curtiss needed expanded manufacturing facilities to fulfill the government’s large order, so a connection was made with The Austin Company to determine whether Austin could deliver on its claims of speed and economy.

Austin promised Curtiss the design and construction of a new 540,000 square-foot aircraft manufacturing facility in 120 days. Ultimately, another 63,000 square-foot building was added and the project was completed in 90 days. This was the world’s largest industrial facility of its time, and Curtiss became the world’s largest aircraft manufacturer during the war.

“In 1916, The Austin Company was one of the few companies in the U.S. that would integrate design and construction,” explains Mike Pierce, president of The Austin Company. “It was wartime and production had to move quickly. There was an unbelievably aggressive schedule.”

The resulting facility was so well designed and constructed that it continued to function as an aircraft production plant through World War II. After Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Corporation, the facility was home to Curtiss-Wright Corporation, Bell Aircraft Corporation, M. Wile Clothing Co., and a portion still exists today as a Home Depot shopping center.

Continuing to deliver “Results, not Excuses”®

Speed and economy continue to be cornerstones of Austin’s work. In fact, nearly 100 years after Curtiss, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems needed a project completed on a highly accelerated schedule, and they, too, turned to The Austin Company. The resulting facility, a highly specialized 210,000-square-foot program engineering and laboratory building, was implemented in just over one year – a planning, design, engineering and construction effort that under industry standards would have taken three years to complete. This facility was later recognized with regional design-build awards from the Design-Build Institute of America and Engineering News Record.

We’ve Been There, We’ll Be There

Throughout 2016, Austin will be featuring milestone projects, releasing a 100-year history video, and publishing a commemorative book. Materials and additional information can be found at www.theaustin.com/aerospace-defense-aviation.

Representative clients include:

  • Northrop Grumman
  • Embraer
  • Douglas
  • Eastern
  • Northwest
  • The Boeing Company
  • Airbus
  • Continental
  • Fairchild
  • McDonnell
  • Lockheed Martin
  • Bombardier
  • Consolidated Aircraft
  • Pratt & Whitney
  • United

Austin would also like to take this opportunity to thank our clients for their relationships, collaboration and support. It is a pleasure to serve you and we look forward to the next 100 years.  

Related Resources

The Meaning of 100 Years – Blog by Mike Pierce, president of The Austin Company

Aviation, Aerospace & Defense – Information on The Austin Company website

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