Premier Aviation to move into Windsor hangar 'soon'

Premier Aviation still plans to open its airline maintenance service in Windsor, Ont., this year.

The airplane maintenance company was to be up and running in Windsor by mid-2012

More than 600 people attended Premier Aviation's job in March. (CBC)

Premier Aviation still plans to open its airline maintenance service in Windsor, Ont., this year.

According to the company's vice president of marketing, sales and service,  David Diggle, the company has "a firm date in mind" but refused to say what that date is.

Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis said a formal announcement is "coming soon."

"I think Premier would want to have that formal announcement when the planes start arriving," Francis said. "They’re going to want to celebrate their first plane coming into Windsor."

Three months ago, city officials and staff of Premier Aviation promised the airplane maintenance company would be up and running in the 143,000-square-foot facility by mid-year.

Final tweaks made to the $23-million hanger have delayed that opening.

"There were some minor adjustments done to harnesses that hang people from the ceiling," Francis said.

According to the mayor, Transport Canada issues licences for aircraft overhaul facilities. It has started the auditing process of the facility, Francis said. The next step is for individual airlines to also audit the building, he said.

Much needed jobs on the line

More than 600 people attended Premier Aviation's job fair in March in Windsor, which has the country's highest unemployment rate at 9.9 per cent.

Francis said he still expects Premier to hire between 250 and 300 people within the next two years.

Diggle said people have been hired for the Windsor operations, but didn't elaborate.

The mayor said Premier has relocated one employee to Windsor to oversee the operation here. He also said some Windsorites are in Trois-Rivières, Que., training.

Just weeks prior to the job fair in Windsor, aircraft maintenance firm Aveos ceased operations. The business employed approximately 2,600 people servicing mainly Air Canada planes.

Since then, Air Canada has reached an agreement with Aveos Fleet Performance Inc. that could facilitate the sale of two of its three divisions, according to a June 5 report from FTI Consulting Canada Inc, the court-appointed monitor assisting with the Aveos restructuring.

It's not known whether the demise of Aveos means more jobs for Premier and  Windsor.

"I won't get into the private discussions we had [with Premier]. And I won’t get into the Aveos debate," Francis said. "Premier has shared with us a lot of details with regards to their work plan, schedules and planes coming in."

The hangar in Windsor is Ontario's biggest aircraft overhaul building. It's big enough to house a Boeing 747 and 737 at the same time.

Meanwhile, St. Clair College spokesperson John Fairley said the college is waiting for Premier to "define needs" before the school can move forward and establish a new yet-to-be-determined aviation program.