First In Flight

2012

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smaller companies, startups and entrepre- neurs who run them play major roles in the aviation and aerospace industry. For example, Scott Bledsoe opened Blue Force Technologies Inc., an aerospace-hardware company in Research Triangle Park, in 2011 and quickly developed a portfolio of diverse clients. "We chose to locate Blue Force Technologies in the RTP area of North Carolina because, as a technology develop- ment resource for our customers, we abso- lutely must offer agile, highly capable teams that can craft hardware from our customers' concepts," Bledsoe says. "With a university system strong in science and engineering, a large supply of folks leaving the military with relevant technical skills and consistently high ratings for quality of life, North Carolina RIIHUV DQ LGHDO PL[ IRU ÀQGLQJ DQG UHWDLQLQJ the right people." Perhaps the best partnership is that between aviation, aerospace and the state's billion-dollar defense industry. Tar Heel companies took in $4 billion in military contracts in 2009, according to the N.C. Military Business Center. The state has the fourth-largest active-duty military popula- tion in the country and ranks 26th in the value of military contracts awarded. "North Carolina has a very diverse aerospace supplier base for military and commercial applications. We have engine, aircraft-component and airframe- structural manufacturers, avionics suppliers, software developers and a robust maintenance, repair and overhaul presence," says Ray Jones, president of the North Carolina Aerospace Alliance. "The customer base comprises every facet of aerospace, including the Depart- ment of Defense, Homeland Security, commercial aviation, general aviation, light-sport aircraft, unmanned air vehicles and commercial space." The Tar Heel aviation industry grew from just one passenger on a windy December day in 1903 to some 47 million ZKR Á\ WR DQG IURP WKH VWDWH HDFK \HDU From the windy beaches of Kitty Hawk to a jet stream at 40,000 feet to the windless vacuum 35 miles up, the sky has never been the limit in North Carolina. J A N U A R Y 2012

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