With unemployment numbers in the U.S. stuck on high, word of job openings is always welcome news. A substantial number of new aerospace jobs have evolved from some unlikely sources this year: non-U.S.-based companies. Brazilian aircraft builder Embraer opened a $50 million final manufacturing facility for the Phenom 100 and 300 in Melbourne, Fla., last year, employing 233 people. In July, Airbus announced it plans to employ 1,000 people at a new A320 assembly plant in Mobile, Ala.
This time around, central Indiana is the beneficiary of hundreds of new jobs as Comlux America officially opened its new completion center at Indianapolis International Airport (IND) on September 12. The new 129,000-sq-ft completion, engineering and maintenance center is dedicated to the Boeing and Airbus single-aisle bizliners, while nearby Comlux Aviation Services handles similar work on smaller business jets built by Bombardier, Cessna, Dassault and Gulfstream. Comlux America is certified to the standards of EASA, FAA, Bermudan, GACA (Saudi Arabia) and Aruban Part 145 repair stations. Comlux America and Comlux Aviation Services represent the North American beachhead of parent company Comlux, The Aviation Group, based in Zurich, Switzerland.
On opening day, Comlux America’s hangar hosted hundreds of guests from near and far, sampling food and music in front of two Boeings in for completion. Comlux handed out many customer awards at the ceremony to thank people for their support during the past year of growth. On the guest list were representatives from both business aviation and the airlines, including Qatar Airlines CEO Akbar al-Bakar and Comlux America BBJ customer representative Mihail Alenkin, who flew in from Russia. Jonghwa Chin of the Minth Group, owner of an ACJ318 operated by Fly Comlux, arrived from Shanghai. Guests also included representatives from the offices of Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, as well as from Indiana’s Governor Mitch Daniels. Both the city and state governments delivered financial assistance to the building effort in return for local employment guarantees.
Another guest, John Sambolec, represented a Middle East 757 owner. The big Boeing arrived at Comlux America after Sambolec’s customer became disenchanted with the first shop that attempted to upgrade the aircraft. While all guests had words of praise for Comlux America, Akbar al-Bakar said he hopes Qatar will soon be able to send the new facility some business. Al-Bakar’s company manages the private fleet of Qatar’s royal family, in addition to half a dozen Bombardier business aircraft.
Because the new hangar can handle up to four single-aisle aircraft simultaneously, Comlux America CEO David Edinger says, “We’re always in a hiring mode.” Comlux currently employs 350 people at IND, and Edinger expects that number to grow to between 450 and 500 in the next year. “The toughest jobs to fill are the engineering positions,” he said, “but we are also still searching for a variety of other specialists for both shifts.”
Edinger was Comlux America employee number one when he joined the company in 2009. He began his career as a teenager at Dee Howard in San Antonio, where he had an eye for details, a trait he brought to Comlux, especially during the design of the new completion center. “I’ve probably done 70 percent of the work we handle in this facility myself at one point or another in my life. I watch everything pretty closely although I’m not the micro-manager I once was,” he said. “This completion center was designed from the beginning to integrate cabinetry, sheet metal, systems, avionics, upholstery and finish, everything any completion facility would ever need, all together under a single roof. We did that for maximum efficiency.”
Close by the massive 65,000-sq-ft hangar floor are the document control center, interior design center, engineering department, certification group and the technical publications teams, all swiftly accessible in person. Each client is given his own office for the duration of the work–often more than a year–to ensure that the finished aircraft will be precisely what the customer expects. The second floor has a gourmet kitchen where customers can bring their own chefs to prepare meals, or sample fine cuisine from the locals. Because so many large-aircraft clients emerge from the Middle East, the Comlux America center at IND incorporates a prayer room.
Edinger said employees keep the goal in mind: deliver the best completions anywhere. “We get smarter with each airplane we complete.”