KF Aerospace is in the process of building a new hangar at the Kelowna International Airport, which will allow the company to work on more aircraft at once and add to its workforce.
The company, which provides aircraft maintenance and repair for many big name airlines, is planning to hire 75 more employees in Kelowna by the end of next year in order to accommodate the $3-million expansion.
The business is expanding to accommodate extra work after signing a 13-year maintenance contract with WestJet and seeing many of its customers adding aircraft to their fleets.
“We’ve been operating at full capacity in Kelowna for the last two years,” Grant Stevens, the company’s vice-president of corporate services, said.
The new hangar is expected to be finished this summer.
KF Aerospace will be looking for 75 more employees but expects hiring to be a challenge as the latest unemployment data has the jobless rate at just 3.9 per cent in Kelowna.
Stevens said the biggest barrier to recruitment is the expensive local housing market.
“We’ve been taking a multi-disciplinary approach to hiring additional staff. We’ve been working with Okanagan College to increase the number of graduates from the programs for (aircraft maintenance engineers),” Stevens said.
“We’ve been searching outside of Canada to help people immigrate into Canada … who have experience and we’ve been out recruiting from other companies across Canada.”
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Stevens said most of the positions will be for aircraft maintenance engineers, but there will also be entry-level painter and administration positions.
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Kelowna International Airport’s director is happy to see the company expand its Kelowna operations.
Sam Samaddar said having a full range of maintenance services available at the airport is a selling feature that makes the Kelowna International Airport more attractive to airlines considering new Kelowna-bound routes.
“When we look at companies like WestJet and Encore, you have a fairly high level of frequency in and out of this airport. They are not having to deadhead the aircraft. They can arrive it as a scheduled flight, bring it over for maintenance and then once that is done, they can put it right back into service,” said Samaddar.
“There are some savings in terms of not flying an aircraft empty to get the maintenance done on the aircraft.”
MAX 8 storage
Meanwhile, KF Aerospace is storing some Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft for WestJet, the company’s largest customer, after the class of plane was grounded by federal authorities last month as a precaution following two crashes involving that type of plane operated by international carriers.
Stevens said six MAX 8 planes are parked in Kelowna right now, and KF Aerospace is doing previously scheduled interior upgrades earlier than planned while the planes are grounded.
“That is all that is planned for them at this point in time. What WestJet and Boeing decide to do in terms of repairs for that aircraft will be decided by them long-term,” Stevens said.