Calspan Corporation

Fact Sheet
  • Conceived in 1940, the company was originally founded in 1943 as part of the Research Laboratory of the Curtiss-Wright Airplane Division at Buffalo, N.Y. It operated as the Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory from 1946 until 1972 when Cornell University sold public stock in the lab and set it up as the Calspan Corporation. Calspan was the first in a series of corporate owners that have included Arvin Industries, Space Industries International, Veridian Corporation and General Dynamics.
  • Internationally recognized for proven excellence in technology and science, the company has built its reputation on a rich heritage of innovation and a desire to understand and fully meet the requirements of its customers - from small businesses to large U.S. government agencies and foreign governments.
  • Over the years, much of Calspan's work has included closely guarded industrial research and highly classified military work, some of it "Top Secret," such as the development of military aircraft, systems and weapons; strategic defense initiatives; FBI finger-printing systems; and countermeasures to chemical and electromagnetic warfare and terrorist attacks.
  • Calspan provides airborne research, development, and test and evaluation services using a highly modified F-16 fighter jet In-Flight Simulator and the NC-131H Total In-Flight Simulator, both owned by the U.S. Air Force, and three company-owned Learjet In-Flight Simulators. Many major aircraft development programs for the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and U.S. allies' aircraft development programs have utilized these In-Flight Simulators to assist in the development of flight control systems.
  • For a number of years, the company maintained the oldest airplane in the U.S. Air Force, a highly modified T-33 jet trainer. This research aircraft was flown by nearly every astronaut and test pilot of note, including Neil Armstrong, the first human to set foot on the moon.
  • The company's Learjet In-Flight Simulators provide commercial pilots with training to recover from loss of control and upset events, which are a leading cause of accidents and airline fatalities. These aircraft also provide engineering and test pilot training for the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Naval Test Pilot Schools as well as those of several U.S. allies.
  • The Calspan wind tunnel complex has helped shape the direction of flight research for nearly 60 years, having tested more than 1,000 models of aircraft from World War II bombers to cruise missiles.
  • High-profile transportation work through the decades includes crash tests and research that has led to improved designs for seat belts, child auto restraints, safer tires, studded snow tires, highway dividers and impact-absorbing guardrails.
  • Calspan introduced its first crash test dummy, known as "Thin Man" in 1948. Its Liberty Mutual Safety Vehicle, built in the 1950s and featuring more than 60 safety innovations, is now on display in the Ford Automotive Museum.
  • Pioneered a cellular-based accident notification system that has evolved into navigation/roadside assistance systems used by many auto manufacturers.
  • Calspan computers designed the ramps that enabled an auto show thrill driver to perform an "Astro Spiral Jump" featured in a James Bond action film.
  • Has helped numerous U.S. Olympic skiers, ski jumpers, bobsledders and lugers "go for the Gold" by refining their techniques and equipment, and minimizing wind drag.
  • Company's main complex is located at 4455 Genesee St. in Cheektowaga, N.Y., opposite the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. The company also operates a new $13.3 million flight research center at the Niagara Falls International Airport in Niagara Falls, N.Y. and a research laboratory in Ashford, N.Y.
  • Calspan also maintains a flight research operation at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. and a flight training facility in Roswell, N.M., and performs on-site accident investigations throughout the eastern half of the U.S.
  • Calspan Corporation has approximately 240 employees with a variety of talents and backgrounds. A key element in the company's success is its interdisciplinary approach. Calspan's highly integrated work force includes mechanical, electrical, computer system, software, control system and aeronautical engineers; test pilots; and aircraft and test facility electronic technicians and mechanics.
  • Company's new corporate structure includes five operating units:
    • Crash Data Research Center
    • Flight Research
    • Systems Engineering
    • Transonic Wind Tunnel
    • Transportation Science Center
  • Calspan has served as an incubator for numerous Western New York companies.

Timeline of Significant Events

1940 Roots of company are formed as several executives of the Curtiss-Wright Aircraft Corporation begin discussions as to feasibility of a separate first-of-its-kind aircraft research facility
1942 Curtiss-Wright agrees to finance construction of research laboratory and an 8 x 12-foot subsonic wind tunnel, one of the nation's largest, in Buffalo, N.Y. First concrete for building is poured on June 22
1943 New Research Laboratory of the Curtiss-Wright Airplane Division at Buffalo is dedicated and Dr. Clifford C. Furnas is appointed its first Director

Work begins on the largest, most expensive piece of equipment in the building - the wind tunnel

($3.5 million). When completed, the tunnel will be capable of testing large airplane models up to the then-unheard of speed of 750 miles per hour - approximately the speed of sound.
1945 During war years, Laboratory grows steadily as part of the flourishing Curtiss-Wright family. But 1945 V-J Day documents barely signed when company is deluged with telegrams canceling contracts for wartime production of aircraft. Within weeks, production is reduced to 5 percent of war-time peak.

After a series of hastily called meetings, Curtiss-Wright decides to abolish the Airplane Division in Buffalo and discontinue underwriting the activities of the Research Laboratory

Dr. Furnas expresses intent to keep the Laboratory operating and enters into serious discussions with Cornell University. On Dec. 21, Curtiss-Wright bequeaths the Laboratory to Cornell and provides a cash gift to complete unfinished wind tunnel.
1946 On January 2, with Dr. Furnas as director, the 545 employees of Curtiss-Wright Research Laboratory become employees of Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory (CAL). Fundamentally, their resources consist of $675,000 contributed by six Eastern U.S. aircraft manufacturers for working capital and enough government research contracts to keep the new organization in business for a few months.
1947 CAL wind tunnel becomes operational and research begins in automotive safety
1948 Laboratory is incorporated as Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Cornell University, and the Treasury Department rules the corporation to be exempt from federal income tax, thus establishing "non-profit" status that continues until 1972

Designs and tests Navy F-4U-K fighter, the first in-flight variable stability aircraft developed by the company over the years for researching the handling qualities of aircraft

Develops the primitive "Thin Man" crash test dummy to evaluate the impact of simulated car crashes on the human body and for studies of pilot safety in Naval aircraft
1951 Develops prototype version of a hypersonic shock tunnel

Begins long-term expertise in ground and air tactical warfare

Files a patent for the seatbelt
1952 Receives first contract for research on automobile dynamics

Crash testing leads to development of early safety features for cars
1953 Designs and develops a C-45 variable stability aircraft, the first such aircraft with 3-axis
capability, for the U.S. Air Force Wright Aeronautical Laboratory
1954 Designs retrofit kit for installation of seat belts in automobiles
1956 Using pioneering ventilated test section technology developed in 1 foot by 1 foot pilot research tunnel, upgrades subsonic wind tunnel to transonic wind tunnel capability

Creates first mobile field unit with Doppler radar for weather tracking for the U.S. Weather Bureau
1957 Makes headlines across the nation when it unveils the Liberty Mutual Safety Vehicle (now in the Ford Automotive Museum), featuring more than 60 new safety concepts
1958 Begins testing the Bell Aircraft X-22A variable stability Vertical Short Take Off and Landing (VSTOL) research aircraft

Puts first captive trajectory simulation system into use for weapons integration wind tunnel testing
1959 Underground ballistics range becomes operational
1960 Accomplishes first accurate airborne simulation of another aircraft, the NT-33A airborne simulation of the X-15

Begins variable stability test pilot training at the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School

Begins operation of a hypersonic shock tunnel research and test facility
1961 Validates the usefulness of dummies simulating human behavior in crash tests
1962 Completes radar range and atmospheric simulation facility
1963 Begins variable stability test pilot training at the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School
1964 Develops and flight-tests the first successful demonstration of ADLAT, an automatic terrain following radar system

High-power laser laboratory becomes operational
1965 Early development work begins in the area of aircraft parameter identification
1966 Begins transition from non-profit to for-profit status as Cornell University undertakes a broad reexamination of the Laboratory's proper role in the University's structure

First uses laser beam to successfully measure gas density

First tests REDCAP, a real-time computer-based simulator of large-scale electromagnetic warfare

Designs, tests, evaluates and patents box beam barrier guard rails
1967 Begins developing the Total In-Flight Simulator (TIFS), a major advance over earlier variable stability aircraft

Develops and tests a low-speed Omni-directional Rotating Airspeed Indication System (LORAS) for helicopters and VSTOL aircraft

U.S. Navy introduces a fully automatic all-weather carrier landing system developed by CAL

First demonstrates a fingerprint system for the FBI

Pioneers the first independent HYGE sled test facility in the world to begin evaluation of
automotive restraint systems
1968 Cornell recommends a separation due to lack of significant interaction between the University and the Laboratory

Achieves record wind tunnel testing hours - 7,270 hours equivalent to 303 days of continuous 24/7 testing

Completes Vehicle Experimental Research Facility (VERF) for evaluation of vehicle crash worthiness and vehicle handling characteristics
1969 Performs anti-ballistic missile systems research

Completes flight research hangar and engineering offices at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport

Develops the mytron, an instrument for research on neuromuscular behavior and disorders
1970 First flight of newly developed Total In-Flight Simulator (TIFS)
1971 New York State Court of Appeals rules unanimously that Cornell University is allowed to sell the Laboratory
1972 Cornell's Trustees establish guidelines which clear the way to create a new for-profit corporation. Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory changes its name to Calspan Corporation and terminates its exemption from federal income tax.

Cornell University sells 350,000 of 1.1 million shares of stock in the company to the public

Designs the world's largest flat track advanced tire research and testing facility for commercial and government customers

Completes prototype FBI fingerprint reading system
1973 Develops MIL-F-8785B, the military specification for aircraft handling qualities
1978 Arvin Industries acquires the company which becomes Arvin/Calspan Advanced Technology Center

Initiates charter National Automotive Sampling Study (NASS)
1979 Produces research safety vehicle that incorporates advanced safety system concepts

Initiates New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) crash testing
1981 Maiden voyage of Columbia, the first Space Shuttle, culminates 10 years of research including transonic and hypersonic wind tunnel testing and evaluation of in-flight handling qualities utilizing TIFS

Performs advanced research and development of auto airbag systems
1982 Initiates testing of child auto restraint systems
1983 Partners with the Research Foundation of SUNY Buffalo to open the Calspan - University of Buffalo Research Center (CUBRC), an independent, not-for-profit, multidisciplinary research center
1986 Completes development work for nation's "Star Wars" space defense initiative
1987 Acquires Systems Research Laboratories and company becomes Calspan-SRL
1988 Transonic wind tunnel reaches 100,000 hours of test operations

Flight research unit receives contract for the development of a new highly modified Variable- Stability In-flight Simulator Test Aircraft (VISTA), F-16D.
1991 Begins performing car-to-car offset testing with both vehicles in motion
1993 Develops a digital model-following variable control feel system for the VISTA F 16 and VAAC Harrier
1995 Arvin Industries completes gradual spin-off of company to Space Industries International., Inc.
1996 Designs and installs automotive test facilities at Samsung Motors of Korea
1997 Merges with Veda International, Inc. of Alexandria, Va. and a year later becomes the Veridian Corporation

Receives major transonic wind tunnel contract for Joint Strike Force (JSF) testing (approximately 10,000 hours)
1998 Picabo Street, Olympic skier who trained in the company's low- speed wind tunnel, wins a gold medal in the women's super giant slalom in Nagano, Japan
1999 Develops the only airborne simulation-based upset recovery training program to help reduce the leading cause of commercial airline accidents

Next-generation captive trajectory simulation (CTS) system becomes operational for transonic wind tunnel weapons integration testing

Designs and supplies first commercial test systems for advanced pedestrian protection in Europe
2001 Enters 27th consecutive year of performing crash data collection and analysis for NASS
2002 Performs 2,000th crash test at Vehicle Experimental Research Facility
2003 Becomes part of General Dynamics, as the Virginia-based company completes its acquisition of Veridian. Operates as part of the Advanced Information Systems (AIS) division of General Dynamics

Starts work on a new aerospace testing and technology research complex at the Niagara Falls, N.Y. International Airport

Performs test number 25,000 at the HYGE sled test facility
2004 Learjet In-Flight Simulator is used successfully for a test project to develop automatic aerial refueling for the U.S. Air Force

Crash Data Resource Center (CDRC) works with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to develop a national crash causation survey to collect data on factors that contribute to motor vehicle accidents
2005 One of Western New York's most-storied companies - Calspan Corporation - returns to local ownership as a local management group purchases the Aeronautics and Transportation Testing Groups of the Western New York operation from General Dynamics

Hosts more than 100 wind tunnel operators from throughout the world - the largest such gathering in history - for the first joint conference of the Supersonic Tunnel Association International (STAI) and the Subsonic Aerodynamic Testing Association (SATA)

Honored by the team of Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems for its contributions to the development of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), a stealthy, supersonic multi-role aircraft designated the F-35

Opens a new $13.3 million state-of-the-art flight research center and hangar adjacent to the Niagara Falls International Airport in Niagara Falls, N.Y. Complex serves as operational headquarters of Flight Research and Systems Engineering Groups and houses fleet of flight simulation and research aircraft as well as a full-size replica of the X-1, first plane to break the sound barrier.
© 2005 Calspan Corporation | 4455 Genesee Street, Buffalo, NY 14225 | Tel: 1.800.CALSPAN, 716.632.7500 | Fax: 716.631.6990