September 29, 2023
GKN engineer
A GKN employee tests fan blades. GKN and VT MAE are expected to add 570 employees to Northwest Florida’s aviation employment base.
Piper Aircraft
Vero Beach-based Piper Aircraft in 2017 saw a 23% increase in aircraft deliveries and a 27% increase in total billings.


Aviation additions

Northwest Florida gets a boost as two more aerospace companies move in.

Carlton Proctor | 4/27/2018

Anchored by such aviation giants as Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, Northwest Florida’s claim as an aerospace hot spot took another big step forward in early 2018.

First to arrive was British-based GKN Aerospace, which moved into a $50-million manufacturing facility in Venture Crossings, an industrial park located at Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport.

“GKN has the keys to the building, and they are ramping up hiring now,” says Becca Hardin, president of Bay Economic Development Alliance. Despite a recent takeover by Melrose Industries, GKN anticipates hiring up to 170 employees with an average salary of $65,000, Hardin adds.

Following GKN is VT MAE, on a mid-May schedule to occupy a $46-million, 173,000-sq.-ft. hangar at Pensacola International Airport, says airport Director Dan Flynn.

The VT facility is expected to create some 400 jobs, paying between $30,000 and $58,000 annually, says Bill Hafner, president of VT MAE, based in Mobile, Ala.

Unlike nearly all of Northwest Florida’s more than two-dozen aerospace companies, which are built around Department of Defense contracts with the region’s five military installations, VT will focus on the civilian aviation market.

The company specializes in maintenance, repair and overhaul of commercial aircraft.

What’s more, Hafner says, the company will be hiring locally trained graduates of George Stone Technical Center’s new aviation airframe mechanics program.

“I’m trying to get the whole graduating class, if possible. I’d like to have every one of them,” says Hafner.

Transportation News Brief
In the Pipeline

Vero Beach-based Piper Aircraft in 2017 saw a 23% increase in aircraft deliveries and a 27% increase in total billings. Rising demand for Piper aircraft for training has meant an order backlog into 2019 and an increase of the workforce by a quarter. In February, the company announced receiving its largest single order for trainers — a seven-year, 152-aircraft deal from Fanmeil Aviation Technologies, the Piper dealer in China and a subsidiary of China’s leading aviation education company. The first delivery was made in March.


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