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Much like the auto industry, aircraft manufacturing is a booming part of global commerce. Unlike the car industry’s giants, aircraft manufacturers are mostly unknown to the general public as they are typically not relevant to our day-to-day lives. Or so we might think.
In fact, aerospace manufacturing affects our lives in more ways than we are consciously aware of. Outside of the obvious fact that most of us will ride on a plane at some points in our lives, there is also the fact of entanglement between aircraft manufacturers and military suppliers.
Of the ten major aircraft manufacturers, the majority of them also operate as defense contractors. Defense contractors supply the military with technologies for defending themselves, covertly communicating, traveling, and mounting attacks.
This connection alone can make the organizations within this industry some of the most powerful in the world.
However, that does not mean that aircraft manufacturing is not an extremely competitive market, with the top two entries on our list nearly dominating the global market share.
This is an industry that’s exceedingly difficult to “break into” but, once an aircraft manufacturer has established themselves, both power and revenue can grow exponentially.
In this article, we will discuss the ten largest contributors of growth within the aircraft manufacturing industry by laying out the top ten companies by revenue.
Largest Aircraft Manufacturers in the World
Airbus European Union
Annual Revenue: $78.9 billion
Founded in 1970, the European corporation Airbus SE has long been a leader within the aerospace manufacturing industry. However, as of 2019, Airbus has officially surpassed the longtime first-place holder, Boeing, and has maintained this standing ever since.
Airbus’s main offices are located in the Netherlands, France, and Spain, but they operate worldwide. They manufacture aircraft for both civilian and military use, and altogether their aircraft have flown over 12 billion passengers across the globe.
Though the organization has some undeniable successes under its belt, it has also faced its fair share of controversies. One of these controversies deals with the nature of Airbus’s government subsidies and the legality and fairness of these deals.
However, regardless of these controversies, this organization still stands at number one on our list.
Boeing Chicago, Illinois, United States
Annual Revenue: $76.6 billion
At a very close number two on our list, we have the American multinational giant Boeing. Since its founding in 1916, Boeing has climbed to the top of its industry, manufacturing diverse aircraft products such as airplanes, rockets, satellites, helicopters, and telecom equipment.
As a defense contractor or military supplier, Boeing also stands as the second-largest in the world by revenue. This is undoubtedly influenced by the incredibly high tax breaks and subsidies the Boeing company receives as a contractor.
However, the organization manufactures civilian aircraft as well, with a total of 380 commercial aircraft.
The slight downward slide in revenue in recent years may be due in part to the problems with the Boeing 737 MAX airplane, which was officially grounded due to two separate fatal crashes in these planes.
These tragic incidents have led to internal changes within the Boeing company to ensure quality and safety.
Lockheed Martin Bethesda, Maryland, United States
Annual Revenue: $59.8 billion
Lockheed Martin is a relatively new corporation, born in 1995 out of a merger between the Lockheed and Martin Marietta corporations, which has quickly become a leader within the industry.
This American company employs over 110,000 individuals and manufactures military arms, defense, and information security products.
Lockheed Martin is one of the largest United States Federal contractors, and in 2013, military sales accounted for over 3/4 of its total annual revenue. Along with aeronautics, they manufacture and supply missiles and fire control products, rotary and mission systems, and spacecraft.
Like other defense contractors, Lockheed Martin has dealt with corruption allegations and a healthy amount of criticism. Through its Political Action Committee, Lockheed Martin has also thrown its hat into the lobbying and political funding ring, with an over $13.7 million budgetary allowance in this area.
United Technologies Farmington, Connecticut, United States
Annual Revenue: $46.9 billion
Headquartered in Farmington, Connecticut, United Technologies has been a major player in aircraft manufacturing since the 30s, originally under the name United Aircraft corporation, changing it to United Technologies in the 70s, reflecting its diversification of services beyond the aerospace field and civilian business versus military.
Since its founding, United Technologies has acquired dozens of other companies, from refrigeration business, elevators, security, and more, making United Technologies one of the most diverse companies on our list.
UTC is also well known for its political contributions, donating a whopping $789,561in the 2004 election cycle.
Researchers identified UTC as the 38th largest corporate contributor of air pollution in the United States in 2008, releasing upwards of 110,000 pounds of toxins into the atmosphere per year, including magnesium, nickel, and other natural metals.
Northrop Grumman West Falls Church, Virginia, United States
Annual Revenue: $33.8 billion
At number five on our list is yet another United States defense technology company that maintains an over 33 billion dollar revenue within the aerospace industry.
Though this Virginian company has roots dating back to World War II, the company as it is known today was officially founded in 1994, making it a relatively recent player.
Northrop Grumman aerospace manufacturing is most widely known for its X-47B combat aerial vehicle, which was the first unmanned, autonomous aircraft system to operate from an aircraft carrier.
This company is also known for leading the production of b-21 raiders and manufacturing aircraft that can deploy nuclear weapons.
If the nuclear weapons fact didn’t give you pause, rest assured that this company also has the same sort of illegal activity, political corruption, and human rights violations in its past as our other defense contractors on this list. It’s almost as if the real story here isn’t about airplanes. Anyways, on to our next entry.
GE Aviation Evendale, Ohio, United States
Annual Revenue: $30.6 billion
Straight out of the heart of America, we have GE Aviation just barely missing our top five. Formerly known as General Electric Aircraft Engines (GEAE), GE Aviation is, miraculously, not technically a United States defense contractor, though they have historically created or utilized military technology.
For the most part, GE Aviation is a commercial aircraft engine supplier and provides engines for the majority of the world’s commercial aircraft. They create technology such as turbojets, turbofans, and more.
GE Aviation is owned by the General Electric (GE) conglomerate, which is one of the largest companies in the world. GE Aviation was founded in 1917 and employed 48,000 people.
Raytheon Company Waltham, Massachusetts, United States
Annual Revenue: $27.1 billion
With 67,000 employees, Raytheon Company was one of the United States’ largest defense contractors and one of the world’s largest aerospace manufacturers. It was founded in 1922 and eventually went on to become the world’s largest producer of guided missiles by 2012.
Technically, this company does not exist as its own entity due to a recent merger with one of our other entries on this list. In 2020, Raytheon company merged with United Technologies to become Raytheon Technologies.
However, as of the most recently available data, Raytheon company netted the seventh highest revenue of aircraft carriers worldwide. The company remains a large player within this industry.
Safran Paris, France
Annual Revenue: $25.2 billion
Our first (solely) French entry on this list, Safran, is an aircraft engine, rocket engine, aerospace component, and defense company. This multinational corporation dates back to 1905 in its business practices but was officially established in 2005.
Safran is an SA corporation, the French equivalent of what would be called a public company in the United States. The organization employs over 95,000 people. In 2005, the company asked its employees to suggest business names for the company, which would come to be called Safran.
Rolls-Royce Holdings London, England, United Kingdom
Annual Revenue: $21.9 billion
You may know the Rolls-Royce company, established in 1904, for its famous luxury cars, but this company also represents a major portion of the aircraft manufacturing industry.
Rolls-Royce Holdings, the parent company of the car manufacturer, is an aerospace and defense company that represents the second-largest maker of aircraft engines.
As a defense contractor, this British company has faced serious accusations of corruption, but nothing out of the ordinary for companies of this type. Rolls-Royce Holdings employs over 50,000 individuals and manufactures products like turbofans, turboprops, and rocket engines.
Leonardo-Finnmecanica Rome, Italy
Annual Revenue: $14.4 billion
Rounding out our list at number ten is the Italian Leonardo-Finnmecanica or simply Leonardo. Leonardo is an aerospace, defense, and security company founded in 1948. This company is an S.p.A or public company, with the Italian government representing its largest shareholder, owning 30.2% of the company.
Leonardo employs more than 49,000 employees in the production of its aeronautics, helicopters, defense and security systems, and space products. This public company operates in over 180 sites worldwide and, from the looks of it, has a relatively clean slate in terms of its history.
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