It all began on October 7, 1929, when aspiring aviation pioneer Glenn L. Martin opened a new aircraft manufacturing facility just outside of Baltimore in the small suburb of Middle River, Maryland. With proximity to Washington, D.C., and access to the Chesapeake Bay, railways and roads, this location provided everything his rapidly growing company required. By 1942, the Glenn L. Martin Company had grown to support additional production facility buildings, an airfield, passenger terminal and six hangars.
In addition to training many of the young aircraft engineers and enthusiasts who later would start aircraft empires of their own (among them James McDonnell, Donald Douglas, and William Boeing), Martin designed more than 85 aircraft during his career, some 11,000 of which were built under his leadership. Many featured never-before-used innovations, such as a retractable landing gear, de-icing wing pads, gun turrets, and rotating bomb bays. During peak production in World War II, Martin’s company employed more than 53,000 people at Middle River, working 24 hours a day to meet wartime demand.
MRAS has a proud heritage of aviation industry excellence spanning nearly
Aircraft production at Middle River ended in 1961 as the Martin Company merged with American Marietta to form Martin Marietta, with a new focus on missiles and space projects such as Gemini, America’s second human spaceflight effort. When the space-related programs were shifted away from Middle River in the late 1970s, the company’s business strategy shifted to the research and development of new, cutting-edge composite technologies – a move that would later provide a successful strategy for the future.
In 1995, Martin Marietta and the Lockheed Company agreed to a “merger of equals" that produced one of the largest aerospace, defense and technology companies in the world. When the resulting Lockheed Martin Corporation sold some of its business units to General Electric two years later, the historic factory and operations at Middle River were included in this acquisition.
MRAS was born in 1998 as a wholly-owned subsidiary of General Electric. Today, the facility is part of GE Aviation’s Assembly and Test Value Stream, specializing in jet engine nacelles and their thrust reversers, along with aerostructures for commercial and military applications. The MRAS worldwide customer base includes parent company GE, Pratt & Whitney, Airbus, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, the U.S. Navy, as well as more than 150 commercial airlines and international military services.
MRAS products are used on such commercial airliners as Boeing’s 747-8; the Airbus A320neo, A330 and A330/A310; Embraer’s E190 and E195; and the COMAC ARJ21; along with Lockheed Martin’s P-3 maritime patrol aircraft.
A new chapter began in 2009 with the formation of Nexcelle, a joint venture of Middle River Aircraft Systems with France’s Safran Nacelles to focus on the production of nacelles for jet engine integrated propulsion systems. Nexcelle has secured contracts for the nacelle and thrust reverser on GE Aviation’s Passport powerplant that equips Bombardier’s Global 7000 and 8000 business jets (with MRAS serving as the program leader); and for the LEAP-1C engine on COMAC’s C919 jetliner.