Aviation

Aircraft completions firm opens at Air Capital Flight Line

A temporary Emerald Aerospace sign has been placed on what was once a Boeing building on South Oliver. Emerald Aerospace says it is operating out of 200,000 square feet at the former Boeing Wichita Modification Center. (April 13, 2016)
A temporary Emerald Aerospace sign has been placed on what was once a Boeing building on South Oliver. Emerald Aerospace says it is operating out of 200,000 square feet at the former Boeing Wichita Modification Center. (April 13, 2016) The Wichita Eagle

Since last October, a group of private investors has been assembling a new company in Wichita that will do completions and modifications of heavy jets, including the Boeing 747.

Emerald Aerospace has opened at Air Capital Flight Line, part of the former Boeing Wichita Modification Center.

The company, at 4174 S. Oliver, currently employs 26 people, said Larry Pope, Emerald Aerospace senior advisor.

Pope said Wednesday that Emerald hopes to increase its local workforce – which currently comprises former Boeing employees who worked at the modification center – as the business grows.

“Most all of them were there and most all of them touched the VC-25s and bigger airplanes,” he said of Emerald’s workers. The VC-25 is the modified Boeing 747-200B used by the Air Force and referred to as Air Force One when the U.S. president is aboard.

Emerald has leased 200,000 square feet of buildings at Air Capital Flight Line, including two hangars that are large enough to house four Boeing 747s.

Pope said the startup company chose Wichita in part because of the availability of those hangars, as well as the security Air Capital Flight Line provides. Wichita, he said, also has a workforce with the skills to do the work Emerald’s customers will require.

“And there’s a very well-defined and established supply chain infrastructure,” Pope added.

He said there will be “no issues” in bringing aircraft to and from Emerald, which is located opposite of McConnell Air Force Base’s runway.

The company’s primary business is completions and modifications of special mission and VIP aircraft, aircraft acquisitions management and program management.

Pope said most of the airplanes it will work on will be heavy jets, representing the spectrum and size of commercial jets manufactured by Boeing.

He said the airplanes that will come to Emerald will be green, or unfinished, and Emerald will do installation of interiors and other modifications.

“These are essentially one-off customs,” Pope said.

Customers will include heads of state and ultra-wealthy people. Eventually the company expects to do modification work for government aircraft, he said.

He said the company is working on its first completions and modification contract. He wouldn’t identify what type of airplane the contract calls for Emerald to work on. When asked, he said Emerald has received its Federal Aviation Administration Part 145 repair station certificate to work on 747s.

Johnny Stevens and Dave Murfin acquired the former Boeing site in late 2014. It encompasses 413 acres and 1.9 million square feet of manufacturing, office, storage and hangar space from Boeing Planning and Real Estate, which had been up for sale since January 2013.

Boeing announced in January 2012 that it would close its Wichita operations and move work to Oklahoma City, San Antonio and the Seattle area. Its Wichita operations ceased in summer 2014.

Jerry Siebenmark: 316-268-6576, @jsiebenmark

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