5 SoCal Aviation Companies Propelling Aircraft Technology to Soaring Heights

Photo by Stefan Fluck on Unsplash

From Howard Hughes’ Aircraft Company in Culver City to Douglas Aircraft Company in Santa Monica, Southern California has historically been home to a thriving aviation community. The region continues to play host to leaders in aeronautics like these 5 SoCal aviation companies that are propelling aircraft technology to soaring heights.   

BAE Systems

El Segundo – Los Angeles – Mojave – San Diego – San Jose

Founded in 1999

BAE Systems is a British multinational that emerged from a massive three-way consolidation of UK aircraft manufacturers The British Aircraft Corporation (BAC), the Hawker Siddeley Group and Scottish Aviation. With over $23.5 billion in revenue, the conglomerate has its hands in defense, electronics, cyber security, and of course, commercial and military aircraft technology. Customers turn to BAE for superior flight control systems, flight deck systems, and avionics. The company is involved in Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II and helps manufacture the Eurofighter Typhoon. On the commercial front, BAE develops engine controls, cabin systems, and solutions for autonomous flight. 


El Segundo – Huntington Beach – Los Angeles  – Seal Beach

Founded in 1997

Although its origins stretch back to 1916, the Boeing Corporation in its current incarnation is the result of a merger between Boeing and McDonnell Douglas in 1997, creating the world’s largest aerospace manufacturer and America's largest exporter (by revenue). Today, Boeing is one of two companies (the other being Airbus) dominating the commercial airplane industry, so it’s no surprise that nearly half the world’s commercial jetliners are a Boeing product . The company’s portfolio consists of the 737, 747, 767, 777 and 787 families of airplanes along with the AH-64 Apache helicopter. Boeing employs more than 153,000 people and, even with its recent troubles, managed to log $76.56 billion in revenue last year. 

Collins Aerospace

Carlsbad – Riverside – San Dimas – Chula Vista

Founded in 2018

While its headquarters are in West Palm Beach, FL, like many companies operating in the aviation industry, Collins Aerospace has multiple satellite sites in Southern California to take advantage of the engineering talent and manufacturing capacities the region has to offer. Collins is the result of a merger between Rockwell Collins and UTC Aerospace Systems, forming an organization with 16,000 engineers and $26 billion in annual sales. The company is one the world’s largest providers of aerospace systems, avionics, interior systems and information management services for commercial aircraft. In addition, Collins provides electrical, mechanical and software solutions for business and military jets. 

Karem Aircraft 

Lake Forest, CA

Founded in 2004 

Uber intends to be a leader in flying taxis with its upcoming Uber Air service, but the ridesharing giant doesn’t plan on manufacturing any of its own aircraft. Instead, it’s leaning on a number of partners to provide electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles (eVTOL) – like Karem Aircraft. The Orange County startup is perfecting its quad tiltrotor eVTOL nicknamed Butterfly, which combines the vertical lift capability of a helicopter with the speed and range of a fixed-wing aircraft. Karem also provides aircraft systems and subsystems to military clients, and has contributed to DARPA’s VTOL X-Plane program and DoD’s Joint Heavy Lift. Karem closed a $25 million Series A round last year led by Korean industrial conglomerate Hanwha Systems.

L3 Harris

Anaheim – Los Angeles – San Diego – Santa Rosa – Sylmar

Founded in 2019

Like most of the companies on this list, L3 Harris Technologies is the result of multiple mergers and acquisition which ultimately birthed a giant that recorded $17 billion last year and counts 20,000 engineers. L3 Harris calls Melbourne, FL its home base, but operates sites around the globe including multiple facilities in Southern California. It has a range of business segments including space and airborne systems, communication systems, and aviation systems. L3 works closely with the U.S. military and defense contractors, supplying over 1 million components for Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jet. The company is also a leader in avionics systems, developing solutions for the F-35, F-22 Raptor and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet to make the aircraft lighter, smarter, and more effective. 

For more SoCal companies doing big things, check out 5 SoCal Rocket Companies Reshaping Space Travel.

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