A Marana company that specializes in end-of-life care for aircraft has expanded to maintaining live aircraft and is building a major facility at the Pinal Airpark.
Jet Yard, which was acquired by a national outfit, is constructing a 30,000-square-foot aircraft facility and a 1,000-square-foot office building in anticipation of its growth in business and employment.
Acquired by Air T Inc. in 2017, Jet Yard grew its niche demolition and recycling model into storage, maintenance, sales and recycling, said president David Bixler.
“There’s so much involved in what we do, you can’t just ‘Google’ it,” he said. “Many times we go across the ocean to fix an airplane and when I’m in South Korea, I can’t just call Ace Hardware.”
He said scenarios where an aircraft experiences a hard landing is a good example of where his team comes in.
That plane will be locked down for several months while aircraft mechanics determine the problem and whether there is a fix or if harvesting it for viable parts is the best solution.
“Say you had a 2011 car and it blew an engine ... how long do you want to throw money at it?” Bixler asked. “It’s the same thing with airplanes, except they’re a lot more valuable.”
Now, instead of just working with end-of-life aircraft, Jet Yard can maintain them throughout their life cycle.
The company works with midrange aircraft — those that seat between 50 and 100 passengers and fly regionally.
Upon expansion, Jet Yard will be able to accommodate up to 80 aircraft with plenty of land at the airpark to expand, said Marc Graham, director of quality.
The company has 18 employees and is planning to add more technicians with the upcoming expansion next year.
For live planes, they do routine maintenance and changing of colors when an airline merges or sells to another company, Graham said.
To recycle planes, technicians remove, clean, inspect and ship parts such as engines, landing gear, flap rudders, and data and voice recorders.
“We are very excited about this addition,” Nick Swenson, chairman and CEO of Air T Inc., said of the local acquisition. “It provides Air T with a new supplier within a segment of the aerospace industry that we believe is ready for expansion.”
The Jet Yard’s upcoming expansion has a couple of impacts for the Pinal Airpark, said Jim Petty, the airport’s manager.
“It’s the first commercial infrastructure added in some time,” he said. “And, psychologically, it’s a good thing because it means good things are happening ... and it makes it visible to the industry.”
Five companies lease or permit land at the 77-year-old airpark, that was originally built by the Department of War (prior to the Department of Defense) to train pilots during World War II.
The 6,800-foot runway is capable of receiving 747 model 400 aircraft — sans freight or passengers — for storage or recycling.