StandardAero flies under radar in local economy

Airplane maintenance company is based at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport

Perhaps StandardAero flies under the radar in the local Springfield economy, pardon the pun, because not many locals own their jets. But StandardAero and its predecessors, Garrett Aviation and Landmark Aviation, have been a mainstay at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport for decades, servicing planes and jets.

"It's actually woven into the fabric of Springfield because the workers' moms and dads worked here and now their children do, so everybody knows everybody here," said David Pearman, vice president and general manager of StandardAero's Springfield facility.

The local maintenance and repair organization provides federally required maintenance and inspections on jets from all over North America. With additional operations in Georgia, Texas, California and other places, including several foreign countries, StandardAero enjoys Springfield's central location that provides easy access for a large pool of customers and their aircraft. The Springfield facility also provides the creative services of interior design and redesign and a highly touted aircraft painting operation.

"Over the years, we have found our Springfield site to be a key to our operations," said Kyle Lundquist, corporate senior vice president of marketing and communications. "We highly value our talented employees and ability to recruit new employees there."

One way it does that is by recruiting several interns every year from the LRS Aviation Maintenance Training Center at Lincoln Land Community College. The LLCC Workforce Institute has an 18-month training program that leads to licensing for airframe and powerplant technicians. That is important because having the federal license is a requirement for signing off on work done on planes at StandardAero.

click to enlarge StandardAero flies under radar in local economy
Lincoln Land Community College received a $500,000 grant from the Federal Aviation Administration in 2023 to help combat a national shortage of aircraft mechanics and expand its existing trade program.

"I take advantage of students (from LLCC) because they're right here on the airfield," Pearman said. "When the interns finish their program, we try to get first right of refusal to hire them directly."

Mark Hanna, executive director of the Springfield Airport Authority, calls the relationship between StandardAero and LLCC a "vital partnership (that) is a key element to StandardAero's future in Springfield. We are grateful to be the host airport."

The Springfield facility currently has 172 employees but would like to have 190, so there is ongoing recruitment.

A sign of StandardAero's commitment to Springfield was its fall 2023 announcement of a $10-$12 million modernization of the local MRO facility. Scheduled work includes hangar door overhaul, interior door replacement, resurfacing of hangar floors and paint facility equipment upgrades. Some of that work is being completed now, and the next phase will be HVAC upgrades, Pearman said. The improvements are being handled in four phases and will continue for at least another year.

The long history of aviation maintenance started with Capitol Aviation in the flight department of Sangamo Electric in the 1950s as a service center for Beech and Mooney aircraft. That led to the servicing of the Garrett TPE331 engine, the Falcon aircraft and later, a partnership with Pan American Airlines. Since then, ownership of the MRO has changed hands several times, with the local facility expanding and growing under Garrett Aviation, Landmark Aviation and now StandardAero.

Typically, there are 18 airplanes getting serviced in Springfield at any given time, and each one stays an average of one to three months, depending on what's needed. Nearly all of the work is what Pearman calls scheduled maintenance and inspection, and when interviewed in early May, he was fully booked until the end of September.

Describing Springfield as a full-service center, Pearman said, "We also do full avionic modifications and upgrades and installs. We do full interiors. You can get the seats recovered – new carpet, new headliners, things like that."

Pearman has been in Springfield since June 2021 as part of his 30-year career in aviation, moving here from Florida after working for Bombardier Aviation for about 18 months. He grew up in California, earned a bachelor's degree from California Coast University and spent 26 years with Gulfstream Aerospace in several locations as a general manager. Those experiences qualified him for the kind of work done in Springfield on Gulfstreams, Bombardiers, Falcons and Hawkers. He mentioned meeting Harrison Ford and Oprah Winfrey while at previous jobs but said in Springfield, it's normally the jets' directors of maintenance and not the owners flying into Capital Airport.

Hanna said aircraft can have extended stays in Springfield, which has a residual positive effect for the local economy. "Usually the aircraft owners, managers or crew will stay with the aircraft during the service periods, providing demand for local lodging, meals and entertainment during their stay in Springfield," Hanna explained.

"StandardAero is certainly a key economic catalyst for not only the airport, but for the entire region."

Ed Wojcicki is a Springfield resident who freelances after retiring from University of Illinois Springfield and the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police.

Got something to say?

Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

Comments (0)
Add a Comment