"We're going to capture our legacy," said Stephen Bucy, vice president of business development for Aviation Technical Services Inc.
The maintenance, repair and overhaul business at Paine Field belonged to the Goodrich Corp. for nearly 20 years. Last fall, Goodrich sold the business and its 950,000-square-foot facility to Macquarie Bank Ltd. The change of ownership, Bucy says, provides more opportunities but doesn't detract from ATS's strong reputation in the industry.
"We're the industry standard," Bucy said.
Macquarie saw in ATS an opportunity for growth. The Sydney, Australia-based Macquarie Bank employs more than 10,000 people in 24 countries and lists approximately $160 billion in assets.
It already operates a handful of airports, does some aircraft leasing and has an aircraft engine leasing operation. The type of aerospace business it lacked was ATS.
"The message from them was: 'We want you to grow,'" Bucy said.
And growing, ATS is. By the end of 2008, the company intends to add 240 technicians to its staff of about 1,200 people. The company contracts out about 200 more positions.
"What Macquarie gives us is the financial strength and independence," he said. "We can expand our offerings to customers."
ATS already offers both airframe and component maintenance and repair.
Customers, even sometimes ATS competitors, will ship components such as black boxes and cargo doors to Everett. They do this in part, Bucy said, because they know ATS can handle the work in the short time frame allowed. Bucy estimates that ATS sees about 6,000 to 7,000 components annually from 80 to 100 different customers.
Bucy calls his a quiet industry -- but an important one at that. Boeing and Airbus may build planes, but ATS takes them apart and puts them together again, usually in about a 30-day time frame. That's the case when ATS works on a plane requiring the comprehensive D check, which takes place every 8 to 10 years throughout the life of the aircraft.
For this kind of maintenance check, the engines and landing gear come off the aircraft and its interior is removed. This allows the maintenance technicians to inspect the mostly aluminum airplane's walls and floor for corrosion.
Most of ATS' airframe work is on narrow-body, Boeing-built aircraft. The company handles about 500 jets each year. Due to its close relationship with the Boeing Co. and to its proximity to Boeing's Everett factory, ATS has opted not to work on Airbus planes.
But it's not just Boeing that ATS works with in Snohomish County. The company also relies on many Boeing suppliers for parts.
ATS is adapting to new maintenance schedules as carriers tend to prefer more frequent checks that take their jets out of service for shorter amounts of time.
"We help the customer find ways to enhance and sustain the life of the aircraft," he said.
Bucy even sees opportunities for ATS as Boeing ups its use of carbon fiber composite materials, as it has for the 787 Dreamliner. Composite materials don't corrode like aluminum and won't need routine maintenance checks as frequently.
ATS still will be needed for the component side of the business. And, with thousands of aluminum-based 737s both in the air and on order, ATS has a long life ahead of it.
Like much of the booming aerospace industry, ATS struggles to find qualified workers. They tend to hire mechanics who just completed their Airframe and Power Plant certification.
ATS employees must have the physical capacity to withstand the rigors of the job. Bucy calls ATS workers "highly skilled surgeons" on aircraft. The company works with local community colleges as well as schools nationwide to find technicians. The shortage of skilled workers, Bucy said, is nationwide.
For its part, Goodrich also remains in the component side of the business, recently announcing an expansion to its North Carolina facility. And, of course, it still owns the engine nacelle business near Boeing's factory.
Bucy, however, isn't worried about the competition.
"We're industry leaders in what we do," he said.