Thunder Bay

Porter Airlines to open maintenance base at Thunder Bay International Airport in February

Airport and airlines officials gathered at the Thunder Bay International Airport on Tuesday as Porter Airlines announced it will be opening an aircraft maintenance base in the city in February.

New base is expected to create 18 news jobs in northwestern Ontario city

President and CEO of Thunder Bay International, Ed Schmidtke (left) and mayor Bill Mauro (right), gathered at the airport as Porter Airlines president and CEO, Robert Deluce (centre) made an announcement that the airline is opening an aircraft maintenance base in the city, starting in February 2019. (Cathy Alex / CBC)

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.

Robert Deluce, president of Porter Airlines, said the company decided to invest in a maintenance base in Thunder Bay for several reasons, including the number of flights that fly in and out daily and the opportunity to lease a building as aircraft maintenance cannot be done outside during the winter months in northwestern Ontario. (Cathy Alex / CBC)

Overnight maintenance

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.

The airline established a crew base in Thunder Bay in 2018 and now nearly 30 pilots and flight attendants make their home in northwestern Ontario. Some of those people were on hand for Tuesday's announcement of Porter's new aircraft maintenance base. (Cathy Alex / CBC)

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