Winnipeg company 'ecstatic,' intends to maintain new search-and-rescue planes in city

A multibillion-dollar deal to purchase a new fleet of search-and-rescue planes will likely see a maintenance hub created in Winnipeg.

$4.7B deal may help create highly skilled maintenance jobs in Winnipeg

The Airbus C-295 transport plane has been chosen to replace the RCAF's nearly 50-year-old C-115 Buffalo fixed-wing search-and-rescue plane. (Airbus)

A multibillion-dollar deal to purchase a new fleet of search-and-rescue planes will likely see a maintenance hub created in Winnipeg.

On Thursday morning, the federal government announced it is purchasing 16 Airbus C-295W planes.

The $4.7-billion deal also includes the creation of a training centre in British Columbia and includes a subcontract with PAL Aerospace, a company owned by Winnipeg's Exchange Income Corporation, to help with maintaining the new fleet.

Mike Pyle, CEO of Exchange Income Corporation, said the company is "ecstatic" about the news.

"At this point, it's our intention that Winnipeg would be the overhaul base for this fleet."

Details about the maintenance contract are still being hammered out, Pyle said, but will require highly skilled employees to do complete overhauls of the aircraft on a regular basis.

The company intends to have the work done in Winnipeg.

"That's the highest-end maintenance work you can do," he said.

"These aren't phone centre jobs. These are high-end, highly skilled technician jobs."

Work on the fleet will not start until the first planes go into service in 2019.

The maintenance contract will last up to 20 years and provide a long-term stream of income for PAL Aerospace, an Exchange Income Corporation news release said.

It is too early to say how many jobs will be created in Winnipeg by the contract with the federal government, said Pyle, but the work will definitely require some new hires.

The company's hangar that houses Calm Air aircraft at the Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport will be the main site for the maintenance work in the beginning, but the company may also expand their facilities, said Pyle.

3rd largest aerospace community in Canada

"There's not a lot of maintenance done here. There's been a lot of talk of Air Canada pulling out and doing different things, but this is a big step in the maintenance direction," said Dayna Spiring, the CEO of Economic Development Winnipeg.

More than 5,000 Manitobans are employed in the aerospace industry, the largest in Western Canada, while Winnipeg has the third largest aerospace community in all of Canada, Spiring said.

"It's a very high-margin, highly educated workforce and that's a huge thing," said Spiring. "To be able to have this type of contract and these types of planes being maintained in Winnipeg is new."

Exchange Income Corporation companies employ about 1,500 people in Winnipeg, but Pyle said that number is likely to increase with the new contract.

The province of Manitoba has identified aerospace as one of the key areas it wants to see grow, and Economic Development Winnipeg says the sector is a priority.

"We want to spend [our resources] where the highly skilled, highly technical jobs are. Because if you get those in Winnipeg and you're able to grow the sector, everything else will follow," said Spiring.

The new search and rescue planes will operate out of 17 Wing in Winnipeg, along with bases in Greenwood, N.S., Trenton, Ont., and Comox, B.C.


  • An earlier version of this story stated Exchange Income Corporation was awarded a maintenance contract related to the $4.7-billion deal when in fact it the subcontract was awarded to PAL Aerospace, a company owned by Exchange Income Corporation.
    Dec 09, 2016 5:01 PM CT