A new partnership at the Albertville Airport will have wide-reaching impact, affecting a number of businesses in the area, the airport itself, Snead State, and even the Argentina Air Force.
At a meet and greet event on Monday at the airport, officials from Albertville, Tyonek Native Corporation, Snead State and the Argentinian Air Force announced that those groups would be working together to refurbish old airplanes for use by foreign nations, with the work being done at the BAE Systems hangar at the airport.
At Monday’s event, there were four TC-12 A200 aircraft inside the hanger that were in the process of being repaired before they will being their new journey to Argentina.
“This facility has been sitting empty for a while because they’ve been unable to secure any government contracts,” Airport Director Jerry Cofield said. “When they developed a partnership with Tyonek…they won the contract but didn’t have the space to do it in. They have a space in Huntsville but it was full, so the partnership with BAE and RainAir allowed them to have this hangar available. It’s a big deal to us because now we have aircraft in here, and we’ll have up to 30 new employees coming in here working on them, so that’s a big deal for Albertville.”
The planes, of which there are 10 that will eventually make their way into Albertville, were residing at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona, essentially a plane graveyard according to Doug Baker, the Vice President of Business Operations for Tyonek, and were repaired enough to get them into Albertville where full repairs can begin.
Once the planes leave Albertville after they are repaired, it was unclear what they will be used for by the Argentinian Air Force. While being used by US troops, the C-12 series of planes were used for a wide-range of duties, including embassy support, medical evacuations and some light cargo and passenger transportation. The planes are approximately 44-feet long with a wingspan of around 55 feet, and can hit speeds of over 300 miles per hour.
According to Baker and others, they hope this partnership can lead to other opportunities to continue this same type of work, and mentioned that a potential partnership for the same type of work on 16 planes for the Philippines could follow.
But it’s not just the airport that would see a benefit from that work coming to the area, but Snead State as well.
“I think it’s a big deal in that our intent is to bring additional aircraft here, we’re hopeful that this will become what we call a TC-12 center of excellence,” Baker explained. “We’ve heard of other requirements that the Navy may have, and we plan to offer them the same solution, and continue to do this. Not only are we regenerating these aircraft, but they’re bringing in Argentinian students here, and we’ll training them on the maintenance, and partnering with Snead State to do that.”
Snead State currently has an aviation program on the airport grounds and depending on how many contracts are able to be acquired in the future, could see work on this project extended long into the future.
“Going forward, there’s a lot of these aircraft that can be brought up to a certain standard and sold through foreign military sales, this particular program will probably be about 10, and there’s potential for the next type of project with the Philippines and it’s about 16 aircraft, so we’re talking about five, maybe eight years, which would be great to have that project sustained through the work here,” Cofield explained. “Argentina also wanted their people trained once they get them, so their people need to know how to maintain them, and so we put them together with Tyonek and Snead State, and they’ll train them here, this can follow along with other programs if they come here, so it’s a win-win for Tyonek, the Airport, and for Snead State.”
For the City of Albertville, it’s a start in a new, different sector of work, with most of the jobs requiring high-tech, advanced training, something Mayor Tracy Honea said is a welcome addition to a city and region that continues to grow.
“It’s a long time coming and we’re really excited at the opportunity that this may bring,” Honea said. “We hope that certainly over time, it will add much-needed jobs in this area. Aviation is a different skill set, and hopefully this is the start of brighter things to come for this airport facility. I think the future is bright, I think it’s unlimited as to what the potential is. There’s so much about the possibilities that I don’t understand, or begin to try to understand, but this airport faculty over the years has done a great job of positioning themselves to be ready when the spotlight hits, and that’s what they continue to do, if they do half of what they think they can do, it will be phenomenal for Albertville.”