Calspan Builds on Dynamic History

Calspan Builds on Dynamic History

In early 2019, James Fink of Buffalo Business First toured Calspan’s Corporate Headquarters in Buffalo, NY. Here is what he had to say in an article published on February 15, 2019 in Buffalo Business First Journal.


By James Fink

Buffalo Business First Reporter – Business First

Thousands of cars pass by Calspan Corp.’s headquarters each day and don’t know of the engineering and aeronautical history in the Genesee Street building. Calspan has been in the region since 1943 and amassed an international reputation in research and testing circles.

“We have a lot of history here,” said Chairman John Yurtchuk. “In the technical world, people know us with a high regard.”

Calspan, which offers research and engineering for aerospace customers and government contracts, has a low profile due largely to confidentiality agreements with clients. For visitors, photo access is limited. And good luck getting officials to say who comprises the client list.

“We just can’t say,” Yurtchuk said.

Some 30 percent of research and testing by the company is for international clients.

Calspan is the anchor of an 800,000-square-foot building at the front of a 73-acre campus across from Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

Of the 800 employees, 200 are based in the Genesee Street headquarters.

“This is staying our headquarters,” Yurtchuk said.

The other local facility is in Wheatfield. Outside operations are in San Diego and Edwards Air Force Base, California; Newport News, Virginia; Baltimore and Pax River in Maryland.

He and Calspan CEO Louis Knotts led a group that purchased Calspan from General Dynamics in 2005. They have focused on aggressive growth, which included last year’s opening of a 58,000-square-foot, $25 million crash-test simulator behind the main building.

The company went from an annual 90 to 100 simulations for automotive industry clients to nearly 900. The simulator can run two crash tests at the same time.

“We thought we’d maybe do 500 tests a year,” Knotts said. “We were wrong, but in a good way. The demand is that high.”

More hiring is planned this year, according to Armstrong. For the 15 engineering and technician positions that were open last year, more than 500 people applied.

Recruiting people has gotten easier as the reputation of the region and company continues to grow. Calspan’s engineering feats – central to such organizations as NASA and Bell Aircraft – are studied by engineering students, Knotts said.

“Calspan tells a good story,” he said. “Our history runs deep. … It used to be hard to get people to come to Buffalo. Now they don’t want to leave.”

He said the wind tunnel — one of the company’s calling cards in research and testing circles — has never been busier. The tunnel runs three shifts daily and is booked solid through March 2020.

At least 15 engineers and technical workers will be hired this year for wind tunnel operations.

The tunnel can simulate wind speeds up to 1.3 Mach (997.45 mph) and has been used by NASA for space shuttle research and for the creation and evolution of the B-1 bomber.

The tunnel was central to an automotive stunt in the 1974 James Bond film, “The Man With the Golden Gun.”

“It is really a part of aerospace history,” Knotts said.

The walls leading into the wind tunnel attest to Calspan’s history. There are photos from the 1950s, ‘60s and 70s, as well as a 1947 photo of the Bell X-1, which was piloted by Chuck Yeager and tested at the local plant.

Tests can last from a couple days to four months, Knotts said. The average wind tunnel test is two weeks.

Crash tests average three to five days and take four hours of prep work for a test that may run just 20 seconds.

Some tests have simulations as fast as 95 mph, said Jerry Goupil Jr., director of crash-test operations. Others are just 5 mph.

“These tests are critical,” he said. “Remember, car companies are spending upward of $2 billion to develop and test a model. How it responds in an accident is critical information.”

Calspan spent $7 million to acquire specialized dummies to sit in the vehicles. Depending on the technology, they cost $150,000 to $1 million each.

The company anchors Calspan Business Park, where the tenant list includes NRG, CUBRC, Harper International and Mohawk Global Logistics.

Calspan has invested in the complex to help attract more tenants, said Steve Federico, senior director of facilities and construction for the company. There is about 120,000 square feet available.

Calspan brought in D’Avolio Kitchen to run the Eatery dining area and added conference rooms and a fitness center.

“These things matter when we are recruiting new employees or tenants,” Federico said.

Retrieved 02/15/2019 from:

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