3-Sep-2014 Source: AHSAFA
Columbia Helicopters, Inc., a member of the American Helicopter Services And Aerial Firefighting Association (AHSAFA), has opened a new facility which will be totally focused on the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) of military helicopters.
The 16,000 square foot building, located at the company’s headquarters and maintenance complex at Aurora (Oregon) State Airport, will be capable of handling up to three maintenance lines of CH 47 Chinook helicopters simultaneously. The twin-rotor, CH 47 is a popular military workhorse, used by the US Army and military organizations worldwide. Columbia Helicopters is a specialist in CH 47 maintenance.
Operational since August 1, the building, which houses the new Military Maintenance Facility, was built in 1996 to maintain the company’s ground support equipment. According to Paul Leach, Columbia Helicopters’ Director, Military Maintenance, the planning began last year to repurpose the structure in anticipation of growing contract maintenance business from international CH 47 operators, through the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. As an example, a complete interior and exterior refurbishment, airframe and engine overhaul for three Royal Moroccan Air Force CH 47-Ds is currently in progress at the facility, under a $6 million contract.
“With ground equipment support moved off-site, the building underwent an extensive series of audits and inspections from the Department of Defense (DoD), which looked at hundreds of items including training, security, fire suppression and equipment storage, as examples,” Leach said. “That has been completed, and we expect to get final DoD approval, during the third week of August, to perform work for the US military, as well as export customers under the FMS program.”
FMS, Leach reported, is expected to keep the new facility busy especially now that the US Army is retiring a large number of CH-47D models, and strong interest in acquiring them has been expressed by US allies. “Our understanding is that about 40 are already on the surplus market, which leads us to expect a significant amount of potential business,” he said.
Columbia’s new military maintenance facility, Leach noted, is the only privately operated MRO center in the western US, exclusively focused on the CH-47. The only other maintenance center for the helicopter in the US West is the Corpus Christi Army Depot in Texas.
“In addition to our off-shore markets, our planning also anticipates business opportunities from US military operators of the Chinook based in the West. We can offer a full depth of support on the aircraft—both the airframe and components—at the same site,” said Leach, who also noted that the facility has expansion possibilities, which will be contingent on business trends over the next couple of years.
Leach also pointed out that Columbia Helicopters is going through the permit process with the State of Oregon and local authorities in Marion County to install a helipad and helicopter parking ramp for the helicopters. The helipad will be built to meet Army specifications, and the ramp will be totally separate from the company’s commercial helicopter ramps.”