What began as a mom-and-pop startup in Hayden more than 30 years ago has grown into a major Northwest supplier of composite parts for the aerospace industry.
Tucked into five buildings at the Coeur d’Alene Airport, Unitech Composites and Structures produces and ships 14,000 airplane parts per month. Much of the fabrication happens in the controlled environment of clean rooms using materials such as Kevlar, fiberglass and phenolics.
The company is capitalizing on growing demand for lightweight parts for a new generation of super-efficient airplanes. About 40 percent of its business is military orders, and the rest is for commercial aircraft.
The manufacturer’s products can be found on every commercial and military plane assembled by Boeing, and soon it will begin supplying parts to Boeing’s European rival Airbus, which is expanding its footprint in the U.S.
Unitech was acquired three years ago by AGC Aerospace & Defense, a private equity corporation based in Oklahoma City. AGC has invested millions of dollars in the Hayden operation this year alone, including for a large new autoclave, which uses heat and pressure to cure composites, Unitech President Rick Hundley said.
“We’ve done just enormous things to this business – major investments in plant and equipment as well as in the people,” he said.
The company has 130 employees and is adding more each month as demand for its products grows.
Unitech is part of the supply chain feeding the increased production of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner – it makes about 1,200 parts for each of those planes – as well as the popular 737 series assembled in Renton, Wash.
Now it’s poised to also support the Airbus A350 family of long-range, extra-wide planes, which are due out in the next two years and will compete with the Dreamliner.
Unitech is close to gaining final approval to supply parts to Spirit AeroSystems, which builds a section of the fuselage and some wing components for the A350 in Kinston, N.C.
The rigorous certification also will position Unitech to supply other Airbus aircraft, such as the A320 planes to be assembled at a plant being built in Mobile, Ala.
Hundley said he sees “tremendous opportunity for growth” with Airbus and its other suppliers. Unitech already has purchase orders in hand from Spirit to produce 37 parts for the A350, he noted.
“This is just an incredible opportunity,” he said. “It could really change the face of this business.”