In January, Kansas-based tooling manufacturer, Leading Edge Aerospace, purchased a 50-foot long, five-axis computer numerical control (CNC) machine to handle large carbon fiber parts. This small company built the composite tooling for Textron AirLand’s new military plane – the Scorpion.

“Leading Edge has some innovative tooling concepts,” said Dale Tutt, Textron AirLand’s chief engineer on the Scorpion project. “The tools were more affordable and were able to be produced in a shorter period of time than similar type of tooling concepts.”

Leading Edge has been taking on large orders for more than three decades. Two of their biggest customers are Spirit AeroSystems and Cessna Aircraft. According to Stan Unruh, owner and president of Leading Edge Aerospace, the most rapid growth has been in composite tooling. That’s where the company has invested the most.

By adding equipment to build and trim composite parts up to 50 feet long, the company is given more capabilities. Before, Leading Edge could only make tooling measuring only 16 to 20 feet long. “For a company the size of Textron AirLand, coming to us and entrusting us with this amount of work … seeing it come together and then seeing it at the end of the runway when it took off was a success of rapid engineering and development from drawing board to flight,” Unruh said.