Porter Airlines to open maintenance base at Thunder Bay International Airport in February
New base is expected to create 18 news jobs in northwestern Ontario city
People in northwestern Ontario who are keen to get a job in the aviation industry might soon be able to do so after an announcement by Porter Airlines that the company is expanding their operations at the Thunder Bay International Airport, beginning in February.
Airport and company officials along with the city's mayor, Bill Mauro, gathered at the airport on Tuesday afternoon as Porter decalred its intention to open an aircraft maintenance base in Thunder Bay.
"What it means first and foremost is that two airplanes that are parking here overnight are now going to be maintained here," explained Ed Schmidtke, president and CEO of the Thunder Bay International Airport Authority.
The expansion is expected to create 18 full time, maintenance-related jobs in the city.
"They are moving 16 mechanics and two records technicians to town," Schmidtke told CBC News. "This is a big win for Thunder Bay."
He said Porter Airlines already has a footprint that extends from Thunder Bay to St.John's and "well into the U.S. eastern seaboard," which means the city was competing with other centres for this work.
"They have a lot of alternatives and they can go do this in a lot of different places ... so when I describe it as a win, it was a win against a competition from others," Schmidtke noted.
The city's airport is already home to multiple airlines conducting aircraft maintenance, Schmidtke said, which means this addition of the Porter Airlines aircraft maintenance will also help attract more businesses and people to the region as employment opportunities increase.
In 2018, the airline company established a crew base in the city with nearly 30 pilots and flight attendants now making northwestern Ontario their home.
President and CEO of Porter Airlines, Robert Deluce, said there were several reasons why the company decided to expand in Thunder Bay.
"We have a good number of flights ... secondly, we actually base crew here ... thirdly, we were able to lease airport hangar facilities ... and last but not least, the fact that Thunder Bay actually produces, through Confederation College and elsewhere, some very talented and experienced aircraft maintenance engineers is something that's a necessary ingredient," Deluce explained.
He said aircraft maintenance includes regular inspections and repairs as required.
"When you have down time at a place like Thunder Bay, and you have suitable facilities ... and if you have the qualified maintenance team members ... it's a really good combination," he said, "and the fact that we have as many flights as we do have here, it means we'll be able to rotate a good number of aircraft crew here on a regular basis to ensure that additional maintenance work is performed."
'Very good day for Thunder Bay'
About seven Porter Airlines flights depart and arrive to Thunder Bay daily.
"We certainly identified Thunder Bay ... as being a really important place for future growth and development and a place where it made a lot of sense to not only have flight crew but to have qualified maintenance people as well," Deluce added.
He said the airline will also be working closing with Confederation College and other schools to ensure the airline takes "advantage of what's available."
"We've been talking back and forth with Porter on various expansion ideas for years," Schmidtke added. "This is just a very good day for Thunder Bay."
with files from Cathy Alex