March 17, 2013
By Andrew Pantazi
Nearly 1? years after a Brazilian company started a political battle by winning an Air Force contract, the company signed a 10-year lease so it can build jets (sic) at Jacksonville International Airport.
Sierra Nevada Corp. subcontracted with Embraer Aircraft Holding to build the single-engine A-29 Super Tucano as part of a $427 million contract with the U.S. Department of Defense.
After the Jacksonville Airport (sic) Authority finishes renovations at the hangar, Embraer’s 50 assembly workers will start putting together the 20 requested aircraft. Embraer will be paying about $290,000 a year for the hangar.
Jacksonville Airport (sic) Authority spokesman Michael Stewart said the 41,000-square-foot hangar has not been leased in more than 10 years, being used only for special events.
Even before the contract was awarded on Feb. 27, Stewart said, the airport authority has spent the last four months renovating the hangar.
“We were cautiously optimistic,” he said. “We strongly felt that the improvements to the hangar would make it more marketable for another tenant if this tenant was not successful.”
Sierra Nevada first earned a $255 million contract from the Air Force in December 2011. The Air Force revoked the contract after the then-Hawker Beechcraft, a Kansas-based company that has since filed bankruptcy and rebranded itself as Beechcraft, complained that it was not given a chance to compete for the contract.
Though the A-29 Super Tucano was more expensive than Beechcraft’s proposed AT-6, Embraer spokesman Robert Stangarone said, “the Super Tucano is a much more capable airplane than our competitor’s.”
He also said the 50 assembly workers that the company will employ will be “well paid.”
“One of the things that attracted us to the Jacksonville area,” he said, was “the skilled labor pool.”
The planes were designed to help Afghanistan as the U.S. military withdraws from the nation, Stangarone said.
“As we come out of Afghanistan, the Afghanis are going to be defending themselves, and they have to have the equipment to do that,” he said. “And this airplane is perfectly designed to do that. It’s designed to support ground troops in battle.”
Andrew Pantazi: (904) 359-4310