Completions shop opens in Tucson

 - December 11, 2007, 6:33 AM

After numerous delays, start-up company DunnAir Business Jet Completion Center is open for business on Tucson International Airport’s south side.

The opening was on hold for almost six months as a result of lease renegotiations between Tucson Airport Authority and Bombardier Aerospace. The Canadian aircraft manufacturer held a long-term lease on the property where it operated an interior completion shop. It was part of this property that DunnAir sought as a base of operations. The lease details were resolved in December, and DunnAir and Bombardier agreed on a gradual removal of Bombardier assets.

“We have possession of the building, and we’re hiring,” said DunnAir founder Dale Dunn. “We’ve already taken over two bays in the hangar, we’ll move into the third bay in March, and in May we’ll take over the remaining fourth bay.”

Dunn described the facility as a 235,000-sq-ft hangar that will accommodate aircraft the size of a Boeing 747. Approximately 40,000 sq ft is devoted to shops, and one of the bays that had been used previously as an exterior paint shop will be reactivated for that purpose. “We’re very fortunate to have acquired this particular hangar,” said Dunn, noting that the structure had been designed and used originally for interior completions.

DunnAir expects to have a staff of 150 in place by the end of the year. There were no interior completion or refurbishment projects under contract at press time, a state of affairs Dunn attributed to the delay caused by the lease renegotiations. “We were reluctant to take on a firm contract until that was resolved,” he explained. He added, however, “We do have several verbal commitments.”

DunnAir also has an option to purchase the facilities from Bombardier before the three-year sublease expires.

Financing DunnAir is investor Lighthorse Ventures of San Francisco. The “partnership arrangement” places Dunn in the position of president and CEO.

The DunnAir property is part of larger Bombardier holdings at Tucson International. The Canadian company will continue to operate the remaining corporate and regional jet service facilities and expects the operation to expand from the current workforce of 170 to 300 during the next two years.