KF Aerospace appeared to be in trouble a few years ago when it lost some lucrative contracts and, in turn, more than 100 employees.
Now the Kelowna company’s star is back on the rise with a series of new contracts lined-up, allowing for a bit of a hiring spree.
The company signed a contract with Aeronautical Engineers, Inc. , which developed the engineering rights and modification packages to convert a passenger aircraft into a cargo aircraft.
KF is now licensed to install these cargo doors into B737-400, B737-800, MD80, and CRJ aircraft on AEI’s behalf. In conjunction with that contract, KF Aerospace signed a customer —Vx Capital — that provides them with the opportunity to convert up to 19 B737’s they own to from passenger to cargo configuration over the next three years.
“Even better, we still have a few other announcements pending over the next few weeks – all good news,” said Grant Stevens, KF Aerospace’s director of human resources.
All of these new contracts will mean more jobs.
Staffing wise we are back well over 800 employees nationally, and currently looking to fill about 90 positions across Canada. Kelowna has over 575 staff now, and will reach about 650 by end of summer.
“Our Hangar expansion remains on track for July 1,” he said.
It’s still not quite as many employees as they previous to 2015 when the company lost its contract to be Purolator Courier’s mainline operations and Canada Post mail service. The two were estimated to be worth upwards of $1 billion.
At that time, KF Aerospace employed 1,000 and that number included pilots and others on the flight operations side of the business.
It is remarkable growth, and it comes from a concerted effort to grow the maintenance side of the business while the flight operations side went into a period of retraction.
“I think there are a couple things that happened for KF. We’ve been recognized within the industry for many years for having very good quality work and that’s because of the outstanding employees who work for us,” he said. “Like any industry, people talk about (good work), and that’s enabled us to grow the business from a maintenance perspective even though the marketplace is a bit smaller.”
The other reason for growth is being attributed to an adjustment to their business plan.
“We had some challenges in 2015 when we lost Purolator,” said Stevens.
“We knew then that maintenance was going to be a larger part of our business so we thought , ‘what can we do to make it more successful?’”
The company put together a business development group, assigned people within that group to work with existing customers and to generate additional longer-term business opportunities and invested in training. That created the space for new growth.
All in all, Stevens said they’ve “grown better than expected.”