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Aviation Manufacturer Lands Growth

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Dec 18, 2020
James Flock, general manager and director of operations at HSM Machine Works, stands inside the Leland shop where the firm makes landing gear parts for the aviation industry. (Photo by Michael Cline Spencer)
A manufacturer of landing gear components for the aviation and aerospace business in Brunswick County continues to grow despite the overall impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the industry.
 
HSM Machine Works, a division of the Italy-based Magnaghi Aeronautica Group, has been updating equipment, growing capabilities and aggressively working to train and upgrade the skills of its workforce to support work at the firm’s Leland facility, said James Flock, general manager of the local operation.
 
HSM Machine Works has been in the Cape Fear area since 1991, Flock said. HSM merged with Blair Industries in the late ’90s. MAGroup acquired what is now New Yorkbased Blair-HSM in 2018.
 
Blair-HSM made the decision to establish the Leland manufacturing facility “to complement and support the activities going on in New York,” said Flock, who has 40 years of experience in the aerospace manufacturing industry, specializing in the engineering, programming and machining of complex aerospace components.
 
The two branches together make the entire landing gear assembly, Flock said.
 
The Leland site focuses on the heavy machining of landing gear components and uses innovative techniques and sophisticated technology to make torque arms, drag braces and hydraulic cylinders. The firm makes its products from a variety of materials, including aluminum, steel and titanium.
 
In New York, final assembly of the landing gear takes place, as well as finishing and testing, he said.
 
HSM collaborates with big customers such as Boeing, producing components for the 747-8, 767 and 777 aircraft. It also produces components that go into military aircraft such as the Boeing AH-64, Sikorsky MH-60R and Lockheed Martin F-35, which is the firm’s “bread and butter,” Flock said.
 
“Most of our stuff right now is on the defense end of things. But we do commercial and military – fixed and rotary wing, meaning helicopters. And we are in a good half a dozen platforms,” Flock said. “Our products are in aircraft all over the world right now.”
 
The defense industry is a big market for the firm, supporting much of its growth and stability through the pandemic, he said. There is also some work coming in from its parent company for projects going on in Europe.
 
“We haven’t had the same kind of setbacks that a lot of the people in the commercial aerospace field have had,” Flock said, adding that he has hired a couple new staff members in recent months.
 
On top of growing business, improving the workforce at HSM Machine Works is a big focus. It also has a goal to expand the facility, create 17 jobs and invest $150,000 – a move supported by a recent award of a $100,000 state infrastructure grant.
 
The need to improve the workforce is due to a combination of factors. A HSM’s 40,000-square-foot facility, it has grown to 25 CNC machining centers, all of different capabilities and sizes. To take full advantage of the machines, Flock said they need a well-trained workforce.
 
“We’re working with the local community college now, and the Cape Fear Workforce Development Board, and taking advantage of the various programs that they offer in order to be able to perform more sophisticated work,” Flock said.
 
The move to build employees’ skills and add machines are to complement the goals of the firm to do more complex work at the Leland facility and integrate new products.
 
“It really makes us more competitive. It enables us to support our customers and our own company’s needs a lot better. And we’ve integrated all this fancy [equipment], we’ve trained our staff to be able to handle all the different tasks that we do. And we have a lot of support from New York and our corporate group,” Flock said.
 
“I think we are headed in the right direction here,” he said. “We are very competitive. We’re positioned very well in the marketplace. I believe there’s not a lot of companies out there that have the skills sets that HSM has, Magnaghi Aeronautica Group, in particular.”

HSM Machine Works

2613 Mt. Misery Road
Leland, NC 28451

No. of employees:
20 in Leland

Year founded: Founded in 1959; North Carolina facility was established in 1991

Top local official: James Flock, general manager and director of operations

Company description: HSM Machine Works is a USA manufacturer of landing gear, mechanical and hydraulic systems for the defense and commercial aviation market.

Products made locally: Assortment of complex machined aircraft components, including torque arms, support braces and hydraulic cylinders

What made the company decide to make its goods locally? James Flock: “Rising costs in the Northeast, along with decreasing margins and increased competition, mandated that our company take steps to maintain our competitiveness within the market. The combination of lower costs, and a ready and skilled labor force, along with the highly desirable climate and lifestyle in the Cape Fear region, made the decision an easy one.”

What’s your target market? Flock: “Our target market continues to be leading manufacturers in the aviation industry.”

What’s planned next? Flock: “Here in North Carolina, we are working closely with corporate leadership to increase our capacity through the addition of capital equipment and staff. We have recently added a large new vertical machining center and have plans to add at least one more new machine in 2021 that will complement existing capabilities and aid in the integration of several new long-term projects to our work scope.
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