A Kelowna aerospace company is part of a major consortium trying to land a huge multi-million dollar, 20-year contract to build, supply and maintain the next generation of search and rescue airplanes in Canada.
KF Aerospace, formerly known as Kelowna Flightcraft, has teamed up with General Dynamics Canada, Aleria Aermacchi and DRS Technologies Canada to bid on the contract under the name Team Spartan. The federal government recently issued a request for proposals from interested groups.
The contract would see replacement of the venerable Buffalo aircraft, described by Canada’s Defence Minister Jason Kenny as the “workhorse” of the Canadian Air Force since the 1960s.
Kenny, who visited KF Aerospace late last week to see firsthand the work the company does, said the all-encompassing contract would see the winning bidder build the planes, supply them to the Air Force for Search and Rescue missions, maintain them over the life of the contract and train pilots to fly them.
“It’s the way procurement is going these days,” said Kenny of the all-encompassing contract, which is expected to be awarded in 2016 . “We are trying to bundle in a life-time warranty.”
KF Aerospace is no stranger to federal government contracts,
It is currently in the last year of a five-year contract to maintain the Air Force’s search and rescue Buffalo planes, as well as its smaller Twin Otter search and rescue aircraft.
The Buffalos are stationed at airforce bases across Western and Central Canada, including at the Comox Air Force base on Vancouver Island. Hercules aircraft are used by Search and Rescue in Eastern Canada.
The new contract would replace both the Buffalo and the Hercules across the country, and KF Aerospace, as its part of the consortium, would handle the maintenance of the new planes. The new planes, models of which are already in service elsewhere in the world, would be built by Italian company Aleria Aermacchi.
Bryan Akerstream, director of business programs for the Kelowna company, said one advantage his company has is that it provides as close to a “one-stop-shop” for aircraft maintenance as possible, given its extensive capabilities at its headquarters located on the grounds of the Kelowna Airport.
While not built specifically in anticipation of winning the new contract, the company has just opened a huge new hanger at the airport, a building capable of holding larger aircraft while they are being worked on.
One of the company’s other major contracts is to maintain Westjet’s 100-plus fleet of planes. The new hanger can accommodate the larger Boeing 757s the airline is getting.