Sierra Nevada plans third hangar at Colorado Springs Airport

Caption + Sierra Nevada, one of the several businesses located at the Colorado Springs airport. CAROL LAWRENCE/THE GAZETTE

The 60,000-square-foot hangar will be able to accommodate aircraft as large as a Boeing 747 and is scheduled for completion by Aug. 1, said Troy Stover, the airport’s assistant aviation director. Western LLC will build the hangar on land leased from the airport and will lease the facility to Sierra Nevada, he said.

The hangar near Fountain Boulevard and Aviation Way is a near duplicate to an $11 million project built and opened by Western in September to complete modifications to larger military aircraft than it could accommodate at another hangar built for the Sparks, Nev.-based defense and aerospace contractor, Stover said. Sierra Nevada’s Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance unit, based in Centennial, modifies structural, avionics, sensors and other components under several Department of Defense contracts to support the global war on terror.

The third hangar project also includes construction of a 53,000-square-foot aircraft parking apron, extension and widening of a 50-foot taxi lane and parking for employees and others, Western’s filing said. The third hangar will have a door that is three feet higher than the second hangar to accommodate Boeing 747 aircraft, Stover said.

Betsy McDonald, a Sierra Nevada spokeswoman, said Wednesday in an email that the company is "proud of its continued expansion at the Colorado Springs Airport; however, at this time we have no information to share regarding additional growth."

Taco Gilbert, senior vice president of programs for the unit, said in September that the second hangar was "fully subscribed for the next four years" and added that more expansion was likely. He said the company, which employed 80 locally in September, planned to hire 200 mechanics by the end of last year to complete the modifications.

Sierra Nevada opened the Centennial operation about 10 years ago to recruit and retain the state’s abundant engineering and technician talent, then expanded to the Springs in 2015 to take advantage of the long runways and ability to build large hangars at the Colorado Springs Airport with strong support from local political, community and higher education officials. That support included tax breaks adopted in 2014 by the city, El Paso County, the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority and the state to encourage economic development at and near the airport.

Those tax breaks were part of a $400 million package that convinced Sierra Nevada’s Sierra Completions unit to announce plans nearly three years ago to build a $100 million hangar complex at the airport that was to eventually employ more than 2,100 people to turn wide-body aircraft interiors into flying offices for high-end customers. That project has been delayed, though Sierra Completions won a repair-station license in February from the Federal Aviation Administration and moved its offices late last year from Centennial to a building near the hangar.

Contact Wayne Heilman: 636-0234

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