The company that took over the abandoned US Airways hangar at Tampa International two years ago wants to revive the airport's other shuttered commercial jet maintenance facility.
Pemco World Air Services of Dothan, Ala., is asking to lease the hangar that Delta Air Lines abandoned in 2005. If the airport's board approves the lease Thursday, Pemco could move in this fall.
The company employs between 200 and 300 workers in Tampa who perform heavy maintenance and restore cabin interiors for JetBlue Airways and United Airlines. That number "could very quickly double'' with the additional hangar, said Pemco president Kevin Casey.
"We're very pleased Pemco's business operations are working so well here they can afford to expand,'' said John Wheat, interim executive director at Tampa International Airport. "We're thrilled any time a company can have a positive effect on the economy of our community.''
Most major airlines used to do scheduled jet maintenance with their own mechanics in their own facilities. But as they struggled financially over the last decade, carriers increasingly cut employees and contracted the work to companies like Pemco.
US Airways abruptly closed the Tampa hangar and laid off about 300 workers just before Thanksgiving 2002, months after filing for bankruptcy reorganization.
In March 2005, Delta announced plans to close its local hangar and eliminate 300 jobs. The move was part of a wider effort to save $240 million annually by hiring outside companies to take over heavy jet maintenance mostly performed by mechanics in Atlanta.
The large number of unemployed and underemployed mechanics in the area was a big selling point when airport officials searched to find a tenant for the US Airways hangar.
Running short on space at its home in Dothan, Pemco signed a 15-year lease in March 2008 . By summer, the company had 60 local employes and its first plane in the Tampa hangar. Mechanics on average earn more than $41,000 a year with overtime, the company says.
JetBlue extended a contract that made Pemco its largest supplier of heavy maintenance for the carrier's A320 Airbus jets. Workers at the local hangar also will upgrade seats in JetBlue's A320 fleet.
United has brought huge Boeing 747s and 777s to Tampa for cabin makeovers. The carrier last month signed a deal for heavy maintenance and installation of winglets — near-vertical extensions of aircraft wing tips — on its Boeing 757s.
Steve Huettel can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3384.