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Airplane manufacturing plant comes to Bladen County

By Stephanie Meador, posted 2 weeks ago
Kenny Flowers, Assistant Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Commerce, Rural Economic Development Division, highlighted the state’s dedication to aerospace infrastructure and fostering new business opportunities during a press conference at the Mac Campbell Jr Terminal at the airfield - Photos by GFBJ

In collaboration with the Miami, Florida based Ameravia Inc., currently the sole-source importer of Vulcanair aircraft into the United States, Vulcanair North America will begin producing the Vulcanair V1.0 aircraft, which has been in production since the late 1960s. Vulcanair will establish its headquarters manufacturing facility and maintenance operations at the Elizabethtown Corporate Airpark, located at the Curtis L. Brown Jr. Airfield.

Combined with $4 Million in North Carolina State appropriations, Bladen’s Bloomin Agricultural Industrial, Inc. will invest an additional $3 Million in the design and construction of the Vulcanair North America Production facility that will consist of 36,000 square feet with the opportunity to expand up to 80,000 square feet as demand and production increases. The new facility will be part of the new Elizabethtown Corporate Airpark being built on the south side of the industrial park with direct access to the newly paved 5,004-foot runway.

According to Ken Hadaway, COO of Sovereign Aerospace-Bladen, the Vulcanair V1.0 aircraft is currently being built in Italy, but the demand in the United States has resulted in a need to assist with production by establishing a manufacturing facility at the Elizabethtown Corporate Airpark. 

“The Vulcan aircraft is a high wing, four seat trainer aircraft predominantly used by flight schools. Right now the competitors out in the market have a backlog of about two to three years. Meaning that you will not take delivery of that aircraft if you purchase it today, you won't be able to take delivery of that aircraft till quarter two of 2027,” explained Hadaway. “We're able to produce this aircraft in about 1500 man hours, which is about four months with a team of about three to four people. So we can produce these aircraft quicker than the competitor. We can get them to the market, which means flight schools can still operate and they can change their aging fleet that they currently have, because their current aircraft were built in the 60s and 70s, they can replace their current aircraft for a lot less cost and it still provides them modern avionics…”

Hadaway also noted that the manufacturing facility will create approximately 33 jobs with an average salary of $56,061 in areas like manufacturing, warehouse receiver & dispatch, A&P mechanics, structural technicians, avionics installers, Aircraft Inspectors, sales, entry level apprenticeship to engineers, pilots and others.

This facility will serve dual purposes and be the first in the United States to be the showroom and full-service maintenance center for Vulcanair aircraft. It will attract current owners, for service and updates as needed, and first-time buyers excited about the trainer capacity of the Vulcanair V1.0, as well as those interested in learning more about the Vulcanair V1.0 aircraft.

The Vulcanair V1.0 aircraft is a small general aviation, four seat trainer aircraft specifically used by flight schools and private businesses.

Mayor Sylvia Campbell of Elizabethtown is enthusiastic about the potential economic boost for the town, foreseeing increased job opportunities with sustainable wages for residents. She highlighted that new business growth and aerospace related jobs will contribute significantly to community-wide enhancements. Mayor Campbell also expressed confidence that once potential buyers visit, they will return frequently or hopefully even choose to relocate to Elizabethtown. The mayor underscored the community’s pride in being the hometown of NASA Astronaut Curtis L. Brown Jr., adding that Bladen County and the Town of Elizabethtown are actively cultivating a reputation in the aerospace and advanced manufacturing sectors, with a strong focus on workforce development.

Vulcanair North America and Sovereign Aerospace-Bladen are set to become the inaugural occupants of the new Elizabethtown Corporate Airpark, currently in the design phase by the Town’s aviation consultant, W.K. Dickson & Co., Inc. State funding has been secured to commence construction later this year.

Vulcanair North America will complete its relocation by the third quarter of 2024 and plans to have the plant open in 2025.

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