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Nevada aerospace firm hiring 200 airplane mechanics for new Colorado Springs hangar

September 11, 2017 Updated: September 12, 2017 at 12:43 pm
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Sierra Nevada, one of the several businesses located at the Colorado Springs airport. CAROL LAWRENCE/THE GAZETTE

Nevada-based aerospace firm Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC) said Monday it will hire 200 mechanics by year's end to modify a variety of military aircraft in an $11 million hangar the company just opened at the Colorado Springs Airport.

The 60,000-square-foot hangar on the airport's westside allows SNC to complete modifications to larger aircraft than it could at the company's 2-year-old hangar at the airport and other facilities at the company's Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance unit in Centennial, said Taco Gilbert, senior vice president for programs at the unit.

The company completes modifications on structural, avionics, sensors and other components under several Department of Defense contracts to support the Global War on Terror, he said.

"This hangar is fully subscribed for the next four years," Gilbert said after a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the hangar that is just west of Fountain Boulevard and Aviation Way. "We will continue to expand as we have seen with the addition of this facility, reflecting the growth of our business."

SNC already employs 80 at a 30,000-square-foot hangar it built in 2015 and an adjacent former air freight terminal. While the 200 new jobs have not yet been posted, Gilbert said the company is accepting applications from potential employees on its human resources website, www.sncorp.com/careers/.

The new hangar, built by Elizabeth-based Western LLC for Cutter Aviation and leased to SNC, can house up to three Lockheed C-130 aircraft or two Boeing business jets simultaneously. The project also included extension of a taxi lane and construction of a 250,000-gallon water tank and pump house for a regional fire suppression system. SNC first approached the airport last summer about building the hangar and began construction early this year.

Jon Burgoyne, who leads the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance unit, convinced the company to expand into Colorado about 10 years ago with five other employees to recruit and retain the state's abundant engineering and technician talent, crediting the state's higher-education system, Gilbert said. Burgoyne continued that expansion into Colorado Springs to take advantage of the long runways and ability to build large hangars at the Colorado Springs Airport with support from political, community and higher education leaders, Gilbert said.

That support included tax breaks adopted in 2014 by the city, El Paso County, the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority and the state to encourage economic development in an 1,825-acre commercial aeronautical zone at and near the airport. The city and county agreed to either exempt from or give credits for sales and use tax on equipment, supplies and parts used in maintaining, retrofitting and upgrading aircraft. The transportation authority excluded airport land from its boundaries so businesses at the airport don't have to pay the authority's 1 percent sales tax.

Since the breaks were adopted, three new hangars have been completed for SNC and Rampart Aviation, the COS Owners Association built an addition to its hangar complex for aircraft storage, Cutter built a new general aviation terminal for non-airline aircraft and Global Supertanker Services LLC leased a hangar for its headquarters and based its Boeing 747-400 firefighting jet at the airport.

Income from those projects has helped to double the income the airport receives from sources other than airlines, allowing it to cut fees and rent paid by airlines. The lower costs helped to convince Denver-based Frontier Airlines to resume and later expand service to Colorado Springs with nonstop flights to 10 cities. Within 15 months of resuming service in April 2016, Frontier has become the airport's largest carrier and helped boost passenger traffic 26.5 percent from a year ago to 443,717 in the first seven months of the year.

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Contact Wayne Heilman: 636-0234

Twitter @wayneheilman

Facebook Wayne Heilman

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