Aerospace Components was incorporated in 1986 by Al and Kim Kussy, beginning with government contracting as a mill certified shop. Some of their early products were specialty items for NASA, including parts used in defense and guidance systems, as well as components for the space station and shuttle program.
Aerospace Componets has been housed in this 35,000 square foot facility in Saint Petersburg, Florida for the past fifteen years.
Al and Kim are joint owners and officers of Aerospace Components: Al is the design engineer and President, while Kim is the enthusiastic chief marketing and financial officer, as well as the Vice President.
After four years in operation, Aerospace Components was looking to expand its business, and with Al Kussy’s drag racing background dating back to his teenage years, they sought to break into that market and began producing five-inch front wheels for dragsters. After their success with the wheels they looked for other segments in the market and began producing brake systems–at that time an under-served area of the racing market. Now with twenty eight years in the industry, Aerospace Components manufactures a wide selection of items including vacuum pumps, fuel pumps, electric water pumps, nitrous bottle mounts, front struts, rear shocks and much more, and it’s all done at their Saint Petersburg, Florida manufacturing facility, where Al, Kim, and their entire team recently opened their doors to Power Automedia for a first-hand look at their operations.
When we arrived, Kim gave us a quick walk-through before everyone sat down for lunch in the break room for us to meet with the staff. The atmosphere at lunch with the staff was more like a family than a break room at a large shop, though that’s to be expected with so many long term employees.
The Production Facility: Where All the Magic Happens
After lunch we started off in the main machine room, which is home to multiple CNC machines including two new Mazak Quick Turn 200-11 machining centers.
Our first stop took us right to the heart of the Aerospace Components facility, where their components are machined in a room full of high-tech equipment. The various CNC machines will machine different parts depending on the product run and are programmed and tooled accordingly. A separate room is dedicated to machining brake calipers, which we’ll touch on later. One of the more popular products is their vacuum pump kits. The pump itself is lightweight and is manufactured from 6061 T6 billet aluminum just like the rest of the Aerospace line. The kits come with all the necessary hardware for installation. The vacuum pumps are user serviceable and can be stripped and rebuilt in the field with an inexpensive rebuild kit.
Shown at left Steve Sloman places a billet chunk into the CNC machine for the vacuum pump center hub. slots are machined for the vanes, lightening holes and the shaft for the pulley are cut in a one stop process. Shown at the right is the finish machined nu-assembled three-vane vacuum pump. The full kit features -12 AN hose, three straight and one swivel 90-degree fittings, bracket, mandrel with three-inch and fve-inch pulleys, vacuum breather tank, relief valve, and grade eight hardware.
Aerospace Components offers Drag Race and Pro Street brake kits with end use and vehicle weight determining which is right for the customer. The Pro Street brakes are targeted for those with street driven cars or heavier race cars. They also offer low profile kits for wheels with small barrel sizes, such as Champion and Billet Specialties. Specialty kits are available for Mustangs and Camaros covering 1967 to 1993 for the Camaro and from 1965 to 2010 for the Mustang.
Steven Scholl sets up some calipers for machining in the Mazak CNC center pictured at left, with the front brake kit shown on the right. The billet, in-house machined calipers are also available anodized in several different colors; black anodized, red anodized, chrome, and now plasti dipped gloss carbon, and a flat carbon finish.
The Drag Race brake kits come with lightweight rotors that are 5/16-inch thick and intended for lighter cars that see track use. The Pro Street brakes come with thicker 13/16-inch thick vented rotors which are available plain, or drilled and slotted for additional cooling. A nickel coating is also available on Pro Street brakes for corrosion resistance which is important on a car that sees extensive street duty and inclement weather conditions. Aerospace Components prides itself on its customer service, quality parts, and reasonable pricing, often asking racers in the field for their input. In fact the two-speed and forthcoming three-speed gated Pro Eliminator shifters are the result of racer feedback.
These CNC machines are set up to cut the brake calipers and housed in a separate room to the right of the main machine room.
The freshly machined calipers are examined after initial machining and then taken over to the main room for further inspection, cleaning, and assembly.
Aerospace offers several bolt-on electric water pumps (small block Chevy shown) as well as a remote mount, the standard small and big block Chevy, small block Ford, and for the Ford 4.6 and 5.4 modular V8s. The kits come with all necessary hardware including stainless steel hardware. The pumps feature a billet aluminum housing and impeller and a continuous duty motor flowing thirty-seven gallons per minute with just a four AMP draw and work with twelve and sixteen volt systems.
As mentioned earlier, the Pro Eliminator shifter was inspired by talking to racers and features a true one hand operation design. The demonstration video below shows VP Kim Kussy explaining how the shifter works while seated in her Undercover Chassis dragster. This is the first in a series of interactive videos Aerospace Components will be producing.
Gary Owens (third from the left) has been with Aerospace Components since 1994, his first job after leaving the Marine Corps. He was re-trained at Aerospace for the equipment and can operate any of the machines used there. Here he's overseeing the machining of a prototype Pro Eliminator three-speed shifter body which should be available for purchase later this year after testing is concluded. At left is a freshly machined Powerglide shifter body. Next to it is the finished product.
Giving Back: Aerospace’s Support Of Drag Racing
The Kussy’s attend a number of races throughout the year getting to know racers’ families, friends, and crew. Al and Kim walk the pits looking to meet new faces and keep contact with racers running their product as well as sponsored drivers and teams. They often give out hundred dollar bills as a way to kick it back to the racing community. Aerospace is instrumental in supporting local tracks and is a major sponsor for the NMCA and NMRA, offering contingency for winners and runner-ups in all classes for racers using their front and rear brakes, vacuum pump kits, fuel pump system, or shifter.
The NMCA also features the Aerospace Components NHRA Unleashed Wally program, which allows racers the opportunity to earn NHRA grade points to qualify for national events, and of course a shot to win a coveted ‘Wally’ trophy. They’re also an NMCA, NMCA West, and NMRA top qualifying sponsor with the top two qualifiers getting $250 gift certificates and the chance to participate in NHRA’s National Dragster ‘Be a Winner Be a Member’ program, offering gift certificates at every race. Within ProMedia’s car show classes a lucky winner gets a $250 gift certificate. They’re also contributing to a special grand prize to be given out at Indy later this year.
“It’s one of the most rewarding things we do…Alan and I feel we are blessed to be at the races and not every one gets in the winner circle, It’s one way we give back to the racers. We are thankful to have our customer base and feel you are already a winner by using our products” said Kim.
The Undercover dragster is the sixth shop car Aerospace has built as both a test bed and a showcase for their components. They race what they build and Kim wanted to try her hand at racing. They built this car during the 2006-07 racing seasons and raced it at Sunshine Dragstrip in Florida. It features most of the Aerospace line and a naturally aspirated 632 big block Chevy from Huntsville Engine in Alabama. The dragster will likely see some track time at Bradenton Motorsports Park’s Fun in the Sun five day bracket series this November, with Saturday being Aerospace Components day. The next project they will be involved in will be a 2011 Ford Mustang Pro Mod.
Quality control is the most important issue in manufacturing. Aerospace Components prides itself in this area with their attention to detail and regular parts and CNC machine inspection. Scheduled maintenance and an aggressive quality control protocol help Aerospace Components maintain their high standards. The photos below show a part of the program with a dedicated quality control/measuring station. Various parts are brought here and checked to ensure machine accuracy at various parts of the machining process.
This is a critical part of quality control as sometimes a machining error or damaged tooling at one station can lead to problems in another area of the part later in the process. It also illustrates why prototyping parts and the total process is so important. Tools such as the CCM machine, height gauges, depth gauges, calipers, and micrometers are used for measuring parts down to the nth degree.
These photos show the inspection and measuring station. Parts are brought here for inspection and measuring of critical areas to ensure quality control. At bottom right is the Browne and Sharpe CMM (computerized measuring machine) shown with a jet engine turbine shown in the fixture. The granite inspection plate in the other photos is a spec 50 mill flat surface. Electronic and manual height gauges are used to verify critical measurements of various products such as brake caliper cups shown. Al Kussy demonstrates the procedure, top right.
Customer service starts and ends in the sales and shipping departments as that’s where most of the customers have contact. At Aerospace the same people are in both departments, giving the employees a better knowledge of their customers needs and shipping requirements. Aerospace Components has a network of dealers across the United States giving them broad coverage in local markets. Their website also has an online store for ordering products direct at your convenience.
The front right section of the main machine room contains the shipping department, with the sales and shipping staff sharing duties depending on work flow for any particular day. Mike Yaudes, Scott Meals, Steven Scholl, and Steve Sloman handle the shipping and sales, among other duties in the shop.
Here Mike Yaudes (right) deburrs some brake hats before packaging, with a stack of other parts awaiting the procedure off to his left. On the left Steven School (left) and Steve Sloman pack brake kits.
Sales Associate and Night Shift Manager Scott Meals (right) and Matt Moody are two long term employees, with Plant Manager Matt Moody having worked at Aerospace since 1992.
With nearly 30 years in operation Aerospace Components has earned a reputation in the industry for quality products, great customer service and racer support. They’re continually looking to improve the product line and bring new items to market for the racer and auto enthusiast. Their headquarters and manufacturing facility provides but a glimpse into what the Kussy’s and their entire team pour into their products. It is also a showcase of the the unparalleled support that they deliver to the racers.