Just northwest of Tucson, Ariz., sits a 1,200-acre plot of ground with a 460-acre facility dedicated to aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul. It has been in operation for more than 30 years and is generally considered to be the world’s largest MRO dedicated to maintenance, repair, painting, storage and end-of-life services for passenger and cargo aircraft. Relativity Capital acquired the facility, formerly owned and operated as Evergreen Maintenance Center, about a year ago and last month officially renamed and relaunched it as Marana Aerospace Solutions.
The Pinal Air Park property dates back to 1942, when it was Marana Army Airfield. Pinal County took over the airport in 1948 after the Army ceased operations there. In 1979 Evergreen International Aviation, a provider of passenger and cargo services, took over the facility lease. Three years later, in 1982, Evergreen Air Center opened its doors offering maintenance, initially on Evergreen’s fleet. In 2003 Raytheon Aircraft chose the facility to destroy the Starship fleet. In 2007 the company changed its name to Evergreen Maintenance Center and conducted business until its acquisition by Relativity Capital.
Relativity Capital invests in or acquires small companies with a primary focus in the aerospace and defense sector. The investment in the Marana Aerospace Solutions operation was led by Joyce Johnson-Miller, formerly of Cerberus Capital Management, and Brian Lee, formerly of Carlyle Group, who are both on the board of directors; Johnson-Miller is the chairperson. Members of Relativity’s investment team have extensive aerospace experience and have previously invested in such companies as Vought Aircraft, Standard Aero, Landmark Aviation, Chromalloy and Ladish.
Johnson-Miller emphasized that as an investment fund Relativity Capital has an investment period. “We’ve started looking at ways to enhance and leverage [Marana’s] unique capabilities; we intend to build them and eventually monetize our investment,” she said
Expanded MRO Offerings
At Marana Aerospace Solutions’ opening ceremony Hal Heule, the company’s newly appointed CEO, said, “With our planned growth and significant investments in the latest training, tools and technology for our employees, we intend to expand our global customer base and build on our extensive range of service offerings across heavy maintenance, overhaul, repair and storage that will ensure the facility’s continuing tradition of excellence to our worldwide customers.”
The facility is an approved FAA Part 145 repair station with a FAA Class IV airframe rating and caters to everything from corporate to large commercial and military aircraft. The maintenance center has ramp and storage that can accommodate 400 aircraft and more than 350,000 sq ft of repair shops for avionics, components servicing, interior configuration, testing and inspections.
As a result of the FAA 145 certification, the company can provide heavy maintenance, component/avionics repair and overhaul and aircraft fueling. It also offers extensive end-of-life solutions, including controlled aircraft parts removal, recording and tagging, parts certification, inspection and parts repair and removal.
Johnson-Miller told AIN, “We particularly liked [Evergreen Maintenance Center] because it offers MRO services, storage and end-of-life capabilities. We thought having all three was unique,” she said.
“Just the significant amount of storage space alone is appealing. When you look at the world fleet today it becomes apparent there is going to be a demand for end-of-life capability and services. Where better than the desert between Tucson and Phoenix? There’s no humidity and it has good year-round temperatures.”
In addition to the geographic and climate advantages, Johnson-Miller noted that Arizona has a “strong set of skilled labor” and is focused on aviation.
“The area comes with a top tier of personnel from management to line technicians. There is a great base of employees, particularly with the significant military presence; it has a strong aviation culture, which is important for training considerations. It’s a good environment in which to recruit young people on an apprenticeship level and have them grow with company. Combining the area’s extensive aerospace experience with the strong product offering we thought we could leverage them to enhance and build the business.” The company has already done so by expanding its services to include Airbus types.
Overall, Marana Aerospace Solutions has three maintenance hangars for a total of more than 125,000 sq ft; one large maintenance flight line with 20 million sq ft of ramp space; and massive storage capable of holding up to 400 aircraft with the ability to expand capacity.
In addition to its FAA repair station approval, the MRO holds certifications from Transport Canada, EASA, Aruba and Bermuda. Marana Aerospace employs 254 people, including 39 airframe and powerplant mechanics and 15 dedicated avionics personnel, with an additional 128 contractors.
Marana Aerospace isn’t limited to airframe and powerplant maintenance and offers painting and an environmentally controlled strip rack. Interior services include completions, retrofitting, upgrades, reconfiguration, restoration and installation, cabin and galley repairs, floor coverings and upholstery work.