AAR, which has been looking for a way to expand its airline maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) capacity for a year, is close to securing a former Northwest Airlines hangar in Duluth, Minn. It signed a letter of intent with the city of Duluth to lease 152,000 sq. ft. of the available 188,000-sq.-ft. facility that was built in 1996.

AAR is negotiating lease terms and working on FAA maintenance certification for the facility, but first it must secure a launch customer for the facility. An AAR spokesman would not comment on whether AAR is negotiating with Air Canada or American Airlines for their airframe MRO work that they will soon bid to the market. He says AAR has been seeking another facility for a year, so the letter of intent was not a direct reaction to Air Canada’s and American Airlines’ planned outsourcing expansion.

Northwest closed the hangar in Duluth in 2005.

“The city did a great job of keeping it clean,” the spokesman says, and “now we’re just going through and looking at how to best utilize the space.”

Northwest designed the hangar for Airbus A320 maintenance, so the tooling and existing configuration are ready for that aircraft, but AAR could accommodate virtually any narrowobdy aircraft. The hangars could fit widebody aircraft but would require nose-lift jacks, the spokesman adds.

AAR, one of the largest independent MRO providers in North America, conducted a nationwide search and selected Duluth because of the existing hangar, its infrastructure and qualified workforce. AAR held a career and networking fair last summer to gauge the potential workforce, and “more than 600 people showed up, which was very encouraging,” the spokesman says.

If AAR opens the facility, it would staff the facility with a team of 15-20 current employees and local contractors, and build the workforce as it gains work.

AAR is working closely with the FAA on maintenance approval for the facility and anticipates receiving it as early as this summer.