Cascade Aerospace is selling its Spokane International Airport operation less than two years after opening the hangar doors with the help of $2 million in state loans and grants.
The new owner will be Bret Burnside, who has been managing the maintenance facility since its February 2009 debut. The new company will be Jet Tech Aerospace LLC.
Burnside said the deal should become final Wednesday if the airport board approves the transfer of Cascade’s lease and operating agreement to Jet Tech.
He said Cascade needed to invest significant additional capital in its Abbottsford, B.C., headquarters facility, and elected to sell off the Spokane operation. Based on an 18-month contract to adapt a Boeing 737 for personal use, he was able to finance the purchase, he said.
Burnside did not disclose the terms, but the new company will be responsible for repaying a $1.7 million, 20-year loan from the Washington Community and Economic Revitalization Board.
In pursuing that loan, plus a $300,000 grant from an account controlled by Gov. Chris Gregoire, Cascade and airport officials had envisioned more than 200 jobs in Spokane, but Burnside said he expects to employ 50 initially.
With the economic slowdown, he said, anticipated airline maintenance work evaporated.
“It’s not the industry, it’s the world economy,” Burnside said, noting the ranks of idled planes parked in the Southwest U.S.
He said Jet Tech will begin engineering and staging ahead of January 2011, when a factory-fresh 737-700 is scheduled to roll into the company hangar on the airport’s south side. Jet Tech can be profitable landing just one such contract a year, he said.
“We believe we have a good foundation here of talented people,” Burnside said.
Airport spokesman Todd Woodard, who helped recruit Cascade, said Burnside has an excellent reputation in the business and has wanted for a decade to lead a Cascade shop in Spokane.
“This is a strategic business move on his part,” Woodard said. “I think it’s a good opportunity to grow.”