On Thursday, September 26th, the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission’s Advisory Council had the opportunity to get to know more about the region’s largest private sector employer’s unique craft in a behind the scenes tour and “state of the industry” roundtable.
A few highlights from the morning:
Long-time residents may remember the nearly 50 year old Okanagan company as Kelowna Flightcraft. While the company rebranded to KF Aerospace several years ago, the emphasis on the craft remains. KF’s deep knowledge and expertise has earned the company a reputation as a high-quality aviation services company. That reputation has customers flying aircraft to Kelowna from all over the world for maintenance, repair and overhaul. 45% of KF Aerospace’s customers are international.
The region’s largest private sector employer is only getting bigger. The number of staff in Kelowna alone is projected to grow from 750 to 800 by early 2020. Not only are the number of employees growing, the company’s skilled labour force tends to stay onboard. Over 150 staff members have over 20 years of service with KF Aerospace, making them some of the most highly skilled technicians in the business. While many industry competitors hire staff on a short term contract basis, KF Aerospace has focused on creating long-term, high quality careers.
The increasing demand for highly skilled workers has led KF Aerospace to explore unique partnerships, including a joint commitment with Okanagan College and Mohawk College in Hamilton, ON to create cross-Canada opportunities for training, internships, cooperative education and applied research.
A KF Aerospace employee working on a Boeing 737 passenger to cargo conversion. Did you know it takes over 1000 lbs of paint to paint a 737?
It has been nearly half a century since KF Aerospace founder Barry Lapointe arrived in the Okanagan and began fixing crop dusters in farmer’s fields.In true Okanagan fashion, KF Aerospace’s first home was in a building owned by the Capozzi family that was also used for wine production.
Not only does the company have a long and rich history in the Okanagan, but the aircraft they work on are also a part of history. KF Aerospace’s Kelowna hangar is home to one of nine remaining Hawker Tempest aircraft in the world. The KF Aerospace crew has been working on restoring this WWII aircraft for several years and intends to make it the only Tempest in the air next year. While the aircraft is historical, the lack of available parts and manual means that the restoration uses modern technology including using 3D printing to d the parts needed to bring it back to life.
Follow the journey on Facebook.
Coinciding with the company’s 50th birthday, construction is set to begin on the KF Aerospace Centre for Excellence in spring 2020. The 50,000 sq. feet, state of the art facility will showcase the history of aviation in the region while providing a first-hand experience of innovation and technological advances in the industry. The Centre for Excellence will be a hub for industry education, training, career and policy development.