First aircraft lands at Pensacola’s new $46 million VT MAE facility

The first aircraft bound for VT MAE’s new $46 million maintenance, repair, and overhaul facility — a UPS Airlines Boeing 757 — has landed at Pensacola International Airport.

The plane landed in Pensacola at 8:11 a.m. on Friday before taxiing over to the recently-completed VT MAE hangar. The company will hold a private ribbon-cutting ceremony on June 8 followed by a public open house at the facility from 9:00 a.m. to noon on Saturday, June 9.

VT MAE’s $46 million hangar at Pensacola International Airport. (City of Pensacola/Special to The Pulse)

City spokesman Vernon Stewart confirmed the landing but directed other questions to VT MAE. A representative for the company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The landing Friday is the culmination of a five-year effort by Pensacola leaders to recruit the company, a subsidiary of Singapore-based ST Engineering Aerospace. Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward first travelled to Singapore in 2013 in a bid to convince VT MAE to expand its operations, long based in nearby Mobile, to Pensacola. Company officials joined him in Pensacola in February 2014 to announce a deal.

A UPS Airlines Boeing 757 parked at VT MAE’s Pensacola hangar. (City of Pensacola/Special to The Pulse)

Once fully operational, the 173,000 square foot hangar is expected to support some 400 jobs paying between $30,000 and $58,000 annually — but that could be just the beginning. Hayward has asked Triumph Gulf Coast, the board controlling hundreds of millions of dollars in BP oil spill settlement dollars, for $135 million to help fund a massive expansion of VT MAE’s footprint. Two proposed additional phases for the project would add three additional hangars, a distribution warehouse, and an office building — some 775,000 square feet in total.

A massive expansion of VT MAE’s new Pensacola campus could add three additional hangars and other buildings. (City of Pensacola/Special to The Pulse)

If the full project is realized, VT MAE would bring more than 1,300 additional jobs to Pensacola International Airport, becoming the fifth largest private-sector employer in Escambia County, according to the Greater Pensacola Chamber. Officials estimate the expanded project could also result in the creation of another 3,400 indirect new jobs.

The Triumph Gulf Coast board is expected to make a decision on the funding request later this summer.