Aircraft maker expanding HQ
An aircraft company known for producing sport biplanes is expanding its headquarters in the region.
WACO Aircraft Corporation broke ground yesterday on an 80,000-square-foot expansion of its campus in Battle Creek, at 15955 S. Airport Rd. at the W.K. Kellogg Regional Airport or KBTL.
The project’s cost was not disclosed.
WACO spokesperson Kathy Sullivan said construction is expected to take 12-18 months.
She said the project will expand the company’s FBO, or fixed-base operator, facilities, which provide maintenance to airplanes, and add production space and possibly an engine shop.
She said more production space was needed for projects in the pipeline, including the reproduction of vintage airplanes.
“We are expanding our product line to include the Junkers F-13, and we also wanted to increase our production of the WACO and the Great Lakes (planes) that we currently produce,” Sullivan said. “And we wanted to offer another option for aircraft maintenance and restoration, so the service facility (will be expanded).”
The project also includes construction of an unnamed restaurant that will provide day fliers a place to “grab a bite” while they have their airplane serviced.
“A lot of times in the general aviation community, people enjoy getting in their airplane and flying to some destination for lunch. They call that the $100 hamburger,” Sullivan said.
She added the restaurant will also come in handy for people who work at the airport who don’t have time to leave the grounds for lunch.
The eatery will be owned and operated by WACO.
Altogether, the WACO headquarters expansion is expected to create 60-80 jobs.
Detroit-based Walbridge and Grand Rapids-based Ghafari Associates are the firms on the project.
Founded in 1983, WACO Aircraft Corporation builds two types of biplanes: the three-seat WACO YMF-5 — based on the original manufacturing plans from the 1920s and updated with modern avionics, materials and safety features — and the 2T-1A-2, or Great Lakes, a fully aerobatic 180-horsepower biplane with “extraordinary handling attributes.”
Last November, the company was acquired by Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based Dimor Group.