Aero-Flite to expand at Spokane Airport
Aerial firefighter plans to erect larger hangar, add planes to its fleetOctober 12th, 2023
Aero-Flite Inc. is expanding operations at Spokane International Airport, where the aerial firefighting company is planning a 30,000-square-foot maintenance hangar to meet the needs of its growing fleet, says general manager Chris Niemann.
The company has filed a pre-development conference application with the city of Spokane to review the preliminary plans for the structure, which is valued at $8.7 million.
Aero-Flite currently is based in 33,000 square feet of hangar space that includes a 6,000-square-foot attached tent at 8520 W. Electric, in West Spokane. The new hangar will be constructed adjacent to the existing facility, says Niemann.
“The tent isn’t heated or cooled, so it’s not temperature controlled,” Niemann explains, adding, “We can really only get three to four airplanes in the hangar at any given time. As we’ve tried to add aircraft, it impacts our ability to do winter maintenance.”
As planned, Aero-Flite will have about 70,000 square feet of hangar space by next September, just in time to perform routine winter maintenance for the entire fleet, which will grow to 14 from 12 aircraft, Niemann says.
The aerial firefighting company has added one plane in 2023 and will add two planes in 2024, he says.
The expanded capacity of the new hangar will help Aero-Flite’s employees save a significant amount of time they spend moving airplanes around for maintenance at its current facility.
“We lose a half-day or more, just rearranging the hangar,” Niemann explains. “You have to get the airplane in a state that you can tow in and out, move everything out of the way to get to the airplane in the back, and then restack the hangar. That happens probably every eight to 10 days.”
The maintenance hangar will be a pre-engineered metal building with insulated panels for siding, he says.
Spokane-based Garco Construction Inc. will be the contractor on the project, Niemann says.
The new structure will be constructed on a portion of an existing parking lot, and employee parking will be added to accommodate its growing workforce, he says.
Since Niemann joined the company in May 2021, Aero-Flite has added about 40 employees, bringing its workforce to about 180, including 125 Spokane-area employees.
Aero-Flite operates three types of firefighting planes including the CL-415 water-scooping aircraft, the Arvo RJ85 land-based airtanker, and the newest addition to the fleet: the Dash 8-400 airtanker.
“We believe that more aircraft are needed,” Niemann says of the Dash airtankers, adding that the planes will be an important tool to fight wildfires.