After a year and a half of construction and years of talks and preparation before that, local officials and those from Singapore-based ST Engineering Aerospace celebrated the opening of the VT-MAE facility on Friday.
Ground was broken in October, 2016 at the on a 19 acre tract adjacent to Pensacola International Airport. Friday’s grand opening ceremony was held inside the 174,000 square foot hangar near its first customer -- a Boeing 757 from United Parcel Service.
“This is a huge opportunity for Pensacola, Florida; for our region, for our great state of Florida,” said Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward. “And with all of us coming together in the community and collaborating, this is the fruits of all of our efforts today.”
Serving as master of ceremonies, Hayward added that the entire project -- from groundbreaking to Friday’s grand opening -- has been an “incredible team effort.”
“Everyone from the city council, county commissioners, the educational components, and our business community – everyone rallying behind this incredible project – our partners in Singapore – this is just a huge win for our community,” Hayward said.
Also on hand was Gov. Rick Scott, who attended the groundbreaking in 2016. His political career and that of Hayward’s have run parallel in a number of ways.
“We got elected together back in 2010,” said Scott. “We both ran on the same thing; how do we make [Pensacola] and how do we make this state the place where everybody can get a great job.”
Following up on his mantra of the last eight years, the Governor reminded the audience that the new MRO Hangar will create about 400 new jobs when fully operational.
“Which means 400 more families in the city and in Escambia County; they’re going to be able to live the dream in this country which starts by being able to be self-sufficient and have a good-paying job.”
Sim Lim, the Chairman of ST Engineering Aerospace, says the Pensacola operation is one of the largest in the world, able to accommodate a number of large commercial aircraft.
“Two of the largest versions of the Boeing 777 wide-body, or six AirBus A-321 narrow-body aircraft,” said Lim. “It brings our global hangar capacity to 42 wide-body; 26 narrow-body, and 16 general aviation aircraft.”
Skilled personnel –technicians, inspectors, and mechanics – are being hired – many of them products of local educational institutions such as Pensacola State College; George Stone Technical Center, and the University of West Florida, where Martha Saunders is President.
“We know that great economic development projects take great coordination and partnerships, and UWF has been part of it since the beginning,” Saunders said. “We provided seven million dollars as part of the [BP] oil spill recovery funds as an incentive to locate here in Pensacola.”
And VT-MAE is not the final word in aviation for the Pensacola area. PSA Airlines – a subsidiary of American Airlines – announced plans this week for a new maintenance facility at Pensacola International Airport. Scheduled to open in October, the facility’s expected to create 30-to-35 jobs and grow its fleet by about 20 aircraft.