Empty Duluth jet repair base may be running by December

  • Article by: JACKIE CROSBY
  • Star Tribune
  • October 15, 2012 - 9:32 PM

Aircraft repair giant AAR Corp. has passed a key regulatory hurdle in its plan to open a maintenance facility in Duluth, clearing the way to begin operations by the end of the year and eventually bring hundreds of jobs to the city.

The Illinois-based company said Monday that it has passed the Federal Aviation Administration's certification approval process for a proposed repair facility in the long-vacant hangar once occupied by Northwest Airlines.

It expects to have the 188,000-square-foot repair facility up and running by December and to reach full capacity within a year.

The operation could bring as many as 250 jobs that pay $30,000 to $80,000 a year, according to Duluth officials, who announced a letter of intent with AAR in April. The positions include mechanics, electricians, radio technicians and disassembly workers.

AAR CEO Timothy Romenesko said in a statement that the operation is designed to be scalable, enabling the company to start with a single line of maintenance and expand to accommodate additional work.

Duluth officials and civic boosters spent a year courting airplane maintenance companies to try to find a good fit for the facility, which Northwest closed at the start of a mechanics strike in 2005, displacing about 400 workers. The building has sat largely empty since then.

Publicly traded AAR, with revenue last year of $2.13 billion, serves Delta Air Lines, UPS and Southwest Airlines as well as the government and defense industry. It also operates maintenance repair and overhaul facilities in Indianapolis, Oklahoma City, Miami and Hot Springs, Ark.

Jackie Crosby • 612-673-7335

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