Brookley Aeroplex’s origins can be traced back to John Fowler, who developed one of the first heavier-than-air machines to fly. Fowler – a clock repairman by trade – built a number of fledgling aircraft, including a tethered glider. His designs incorporated concepts that were advanced for the time, such as wing warping for flight control. Fowler’s work caught the interest of the Wright brothers, who incorporated some of the design elements they saw at Brookley into their own Wright Flyer.
In 1917, aircraft production began at Brookley Aeroplex with the Williams Airplane Company, which built highly modified and improved versions of Curtiss aircraft. As the Williams Airplane Company continued to manufacture larger and better products, it developed numerous advanced systems – including the first accurate airspeed indicator, whose basic design is still in use today.
As the aviation sector entered its second phase of development, innovation and activity continued at Brookley Aeroplex. During World War II, the site’s military base became a busy hub for the servicing of warplanes and their onboard systems, including the highly secret Norden Bombsite device – which was calibrated and repaired at the facility in one of the most secure buildings of its time.
Today, other aviation industry tenants sharing the Brookley Aeroplex with Airbus include a manufacturer of piston aircraft engines – including those used on the historic Voyager aircraft for its non-stop, un-refueled flight around the world in 1986; a major aircraft maintenance and modification company; a supplier of avionics service and repair; and a certified provider of hydraulic and pneumatic component repair services.