BLYTHEVILLE, AR (KAIT) - Aviation Repair Technologies at the Blytheville Aeroplex has been struggling to find customers. Lack of planes has meant lack of jobs. In the past several months the company has branched out into component repair. Company officials hope this will be a steadier income.
"We're looking for a customer to replace American Eagle. We'll find one, there's a lot of big regional operators out there. Once we find that we'll pick up another 200 jobs." Says President and CEO of A-R-T Ben Quevedo. Quevedo feels good about the companies plan to get heavily into component repair as well as major service work on aircraft.
With new equipment such a huge oven used to bake composite materials and high tech machining tools that can duplicate parts, Quevedo says airlines shipping parts to them for repairs or exchange makes good business sense.
"We have a low cost facility, a good location and we can be very competitive. Quevedo said as the group of local officials and prospective customers looked over the shop. Quevedo indicated a radome off a regional jet. "These components will come in by themselves. Like the contract we will sign with Horizon, 61 part numbers that every time it comes off the airplane it will be sent to us. It has nothing to do with the airplane and that really is a big help."
If everything goes to plan ART says they would like to corner the market on the CRJ and it's parts.
But as Bruce Berry, the Director of Support shops points out, they can handle just about any kind and size of aircraft part.
"From the regional aircraft all the way up to the wide-body aircraft. And in this shop we're not just going to cater to the regional jets." Berry said, "We're actually going to have some 747 parts arriving this month."
In the hangar were two aircraft. One a CRJ had been flown in from Nigeria, halfway around the world to save a ton of cash. A fairly typical policy anymore.
Quevedo, "The plane that is coming in tomorrow had gone to Italy before and he was paying something like a $175 dollars an hour."A-R-T will charge them 60 an hour.
One benefit of a component shop is that every technician does not have to have an aircraft repair license and can be trained on the job. Berry says soon he will be fully qualified to train people in composite repair.
Berry, "We'll be able to bring a lot of local people in, train them to a high standard in advanced composites and then retain them local people here." Other areas of the shop will also be staffed by people who have been trained in house. The majority of A&P mechanics will work in the hangar.
Currently there are about 90 people working at the facility. Quevedo showed a planned target to recall laid-off workers and hire new workers.
Quevedo, "We expect to be about 200, 225 by the end of the year."