Winnipeg is about to become a major global centre for the maintenance, repair and overhaul of helicopter engines as a result of reorganization within StandardAero’s Canadian facility network.

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This article was published 25/5/2018 (1338 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeg is about to become a major global centre for the maintenance, repair and overhaul of helicopter engines as a result of reorganization within StandardAero’s Canadian facility network.

One of StandardAero’s six Winnipeg plants is in the process of being retrofitted to take on helicopter work that had been done at a shop in Richmond, B.C.

The reorganization announced Thursday comes six months after Scottsdale. Ariz.-based StandardAero bought Airbus’s engine-repair division, Vector Aerospace. Vector had more than US$700 million in annual revenue in 2016, and 2,200 employees — 900 based in Canada, including approximately 280 at the Richmond shop scheduled to be gradually phased out.

In addition to StandardAero making Winnipeg its hub for helicopter engine maintenance, the company is also moving turboprop engine work to Summerside, P.E.I., and helicopter airframe/component work to a shop in Langley, B.C.

The Richmond, Summerside and Langley shops were all acquired as part of the Vector deal.

The helicopter work will move into StandardAero’s building at 570 Ferry Rd., which currently handles Pratt & Whitney PW100 and PT6A work. Those turboprop engines are used in smaller regional aircraft like ATRs, Twin Otters and Dash 8s.

Mike Scott, the Winnipeg-based chief financial officer of StandardAero, which is now a US$3-billion-per-year business since acquiring Vector last November, said the company plans to spend about $7.5 million on retrofitting the building and adding new equipment.

Initially, no changes are expected for the Winnipeg workforce. Technicians formerly working on turboprop engines will be retrained and recertified on helicopter engines.

But, Scott said the company is confident the helicopter engine business is going to grow, and that additional workers will be needed in Winnipeg in the near future.

"Today, we just do Rolls-Royce helicopter engines (in Winnipeg)," Scott said. "Going forward, we will expand to include GE and Safran, which is a new relationship for us. It creates a better, more diversified portfolio of helicopter engine models in Winnipeg."

Rick Stine, StandardAero’s Cincinnati-based president of components, helicopters and accessories, said, "The market engine we are bringing into Winnipeg has a much broader growth market than the product that is leaving."

The expectation for growth in the helicopter business is one of the reasons Standard-Aero acquired Vector — its ability to attract new business.

That’s partly due to the relationships StandardAero has with aerospace companies around the world, and also because of the fact that other helicopter manufacturers will be more comfortable sending work to Standard­Aero than they might have been to Vector, since Vector’s former owner, Airbus, is also one of the largest helicopter manufacturers in the world.

"All the other helicopter OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) did not want to deal with them (Vector) because they were the competition," Stine said. "The fact that Vector is now owned by an independent company — we are now getting discussions with (other helicopter) companies like Leonardo Helicopters and Bell, back again. They were not happening when Vector was owned by Airbus. We are already making some inroads."

Exchange Income Corp. (EIC) likely owns the largest fleet of turboprop planes using those Pratt & Whitney engines in Manitoba. But StandardAero’s decision to move that work to P.E.I. will not affect them.

"To be honest, we had been a Vector customer in the past," David White, EIC’s vice-president of aviation, said.

"Our engines were already being serviced in P.E.I. We have always had a good relationship with StandardAero and Vector and Pratt & Whitney themselves."

Winnipeg is the largest facility in Standard­Aero’s network, both in terms of workers — 1,250 — and revenue.

Moving a slower-growth line in the turboprop engines, and replacing it with a growing business line, should mean Winnipeg will retain bragging rights as StandardAero’s largest and most important centre.

Martin Cash

Martin Cash

Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.