January 1, 2015

Aircraft deal a boon to once-thriving sector

By: Martin Cash | Posted: 03/16/2016 4:00 AM

At its peak in the late ’80s, Air Canada’s two aircraft maintenance hangars on Saskatchewan Avenue employed close to 900 people.

The two hangars — one is much larger than the other — total 275,000 square feet and are capable of servicing up to six commercial aircraft at once.

But for the last four years they have been underutilized.

The settlement of legal action between the province and Air Canada over the airline’s obligation to keep a heavy-maintenance operation in Winnipeg — and the fact the facility was sitting there nearly empty — has led to the creation of a “Western Canada Centre of Excellence” for aircraft maintenance.

The deal that was put together by the province and Air Canada — it will include subletting maintenance space to Cargojet and two Air Canada suppliers — hinged on having that asset.

“It took the realization from all parties involved that these are employment assets for the community,” said Barry Rempel, CEO of the Winnipeg Airports Authority (WAA), which owns the hangars. “What is our competitive advantage? We already have the buildings.”

The hangars were about to come off lease. Even though Aveos, the company that took over Air Canada’s airframe maintenance business, has been gone since 2012, Air Canada continued to be responsible for the lease.

As part of the deal with the WAA, Air Canada agreed to lease the hangars for another 10 years. It will in turn, sublet to Hope Aero Propeller & Components Inc., Airbase Services Inc. and Cargojet Airways Ltd.

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