An aircraft maintenance operation at Tucson International Airport will be able to expand with a new fabric-roofed hangar under a deal approved by the airport’s Board of Directors.

During a special meeting on Thursday, the Tucson Airport Authority board unanimously approved a partial waiver to tenant building standards that will allow Ascent Aviation Services Corp. to build the fabric-topped hangar as part of a long-term lease that will allow the commercial aircraft repair station to expand at TIA.

Ascent has said it plans to hire 130 or more workers as part of an expansion of its narrow-body-jet maintenance operations, which now employ about 150 people.

In August, the TAA board authorized its management staff to finalize a 12-year lease extension with three five-year options for Ascent’s site at 6901 S. Park Ave. Two weeks ago, the board approved a resolution proposing a waiver to the airport’s tenant-improvement standards to allow for construction of what would be the first fabric-topped hangar at TIA.

The partial waiver the board approved Thursday is contingent on Ascent paying into a special reserve fund to pay for future replacement of the fabric roof.

TAA board Chairman Lisa Israel said the authority wants to finalize the lease as soon as possible but needs to protect the airport from future costs.

The board authorized staff to negotiate the total amount and incremental funding of the replacement reserve fund, based on further data from the manufacturer and any possible warranty recoveries.

According to airport officials, replacement of the roof could cost upward of $300,000 to $400,000, based on initial estimates from the builder and inflation.

The company that would build the proposed $3 million, 45,000-square-foot hangar, Maine-based Rubb Inc., says it has installed similar part-fabric structures without durability issues at a number of airports. Those include Boston’s Logan International Airport; New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport; and airports in Newark, N.J., Orlando, Fla., and Honolulu.

The architectural membrane, made of polyester fabric clad in PVC plastic, is sunlight-stable, fire-retardant and expected to last at least 25 years, according to Rubb.

In a memorandum to the board, the airport staff noted that input from airports with fabric-membrane hangar installations has been “generally positive.” But none is in a climate similar to Tucson’s, and the effects of desert sun exposure and heat on such membranes are uncertain, the memo said.

The board also approved future assignment of the lease to a prospective new owner of Ascent, which is now owned by Victory Park Capital of Chicago. According to the board memo, Ascent’s stockholders are considering a sale of all equity interests in the company to LVC Ascent Investments LLC, which would remain a tenant and continue operations at TIA.

Michael Melvin, Ascent’s president and chief financial officer, said the company was pleased with the board’s action to finalize the lease but he could not comment on any proposed sale of the company.

Contact Assistant Business Editor David Wichner at or 573-4181.