For now, one of the four hangars that Bangor International Airport leases out to airplane servicing company C&L Aviation is stuffed to the brim.
Serving as a warehouse, it’s packed with everything from fuel injectors that fit in the palm of your hand to large wooden shipping crates containing propellers, windshields and other airplane parts. With limited space on its towering shelves, some of the bulkiest items lie on the floor.
“Typically we don’t like stuff in the aisles,” said C&L Aviation CEO Chris Kilgour. “But we don’t have any more space to put stuff.”
Soon, though, C&L Aviation will find some relief from its space shortage — a problem rooted in the larger success of its business.
Since the company relocated its headquarters from Australia to Bangor in 2010, its sales have grown nearly six times, from about $12 million that year to $70 million in 2019, according to Kilgour. The business, which offers a range of repair, refurbishment and resale services to aircraft operators across the globe, is now hoping to reach $100 million in sales by 2025.
To reach that goal, C&L Aviation has been pursuing two different expansions in the Queen City. It has just purchased four acres of city land at 395 Griffin Road as well as the privately owned building there that used to be the Spectacular Event Center. It plans to move some of its operations, such as paint booths and engine inspections, to that building while also constructing another 27,000-square-foot warehouse on the land, Kilgour said.
It also hopes to expand further into two new properties that the city-run airport is now seeking to build. One of them would be a 12,000-square-foot building that C&L Aviation would use for the maintenance of aircraft interiors, while the other would be a 5,000-square-foot addition to one of its four hangars.
If the project receives federal and local approval, construction could begin next spring with $1.24 million in local funding and a matching $1.24 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, according to Bangor International Airport Director Tony Caruso.
Once construction is complete, C&L Aviation would have to repay the local share of the construction costs over 22½ years in the form of higher lease payments to Bangor International Airport, Caruso said. Its annual lease payments would increase from $281,662 to $397,551. Over 22½ years, that increase would cover both the $1.24 million in airport construction costs and another $1.36 million for the company to use the leased space.
The expansions would free up space in the company’s existing hangars so that it has more room to work on aircraft, according to Kilgour.
At one point this week, workers in one of the hangars were stripping out and restoring the interior of two 50-seat passenger planes owned by JSX, a West Coast airline. Their work included repainting the interiors of both planes, installing wireless internet networks into them and equipping their seats with new upholstery. Nearby, other workers were working to restore another similarly sized plane that C&L Aviation has acquired from Japan. In the warehouse, workers were busy processing orders from every continent.
Kilgour said that C&L Aviation probably would not be able to afford its new investments without the federal, state and local support it has received.
Besides spearheading the expansion of the company’s airport facilities and helping to secure federal funds for it, the city of Bangor will also rebate some of the new property taxes generated at C&L Aviation’s future expansion on Griffin Road if it pursues the project within two years. It would be eligible to receive the tax rebate for five years.
C&L Aviation paid $265,000 for that land and, under the terms of the sale, must either create 25 new jobs or pay a penalty.
The company’s staff has grown considerably since it moved to Bangor in 2010, from about 20 workers then to 180 now. If it completes both of the planned expansions, it would be able to create at least 50 new jobs, according to Kilgour.
However, he said that the company’s success continues to be hampered by the lack of trained aircraft mechanics in the region. In 2017, the company said that it would have to expand outside of Maine if a program to train mechanics did not open in the region.
Such a program still hasn’t materialized, but Kilgour said the company would still benefit from having a pool of locally trained candidates. In the meantime, C&L Aviation now has a recruiter who helps search out talent from elsewhere.
Nevertheless, the company has come to distinguish itself across the world, according to Kilgour.
He said that it has found a niche role in the aircraft market by being able to work on both private and commercial planes and offer a wide range of services.
“We’re turning work away because we don’t have enough people,” he said. “It’s a good problem to have.”