ROCKFORD — A nearly 10-story jet hangar is rising near the midfield of Chicago Rockford International Airport.
The $42 million maintenance, repair and overhaul facility for AAR Corp., a global leader in aircraft service, will open next year, and the company will hire at least 500 well-paid, skilled aviation mechanics.
Rock Valley College opened a $5.1 million aviation maintenance instruction center at the airport campus this summer to provide a pipeline of aviation mechanics for AAR and the region's cluster of aerospace employers. Enrollment this fall and for the upcoming spring term is full.
A multimillion-dollar passenger terminal expansion has begun, too. And the airport has been in talks with the Federal Aviation Administration to replace its aging flight control tower. A new, larger tower could come as soon as 2017.
Airport leaders expect the MRO will open in July 2016 and quickly become a magnet for air freight, warehousing and logistics business at the airport, which the FAA this year ranked No. 24 among the nation's busiest airports for cargo volume. AAR is busy securing maintenance contracts for the Rockford MRO, said Greg Dellinger, the company's director of talent acquisition strategy and government relations.
“My thought is that we'll begin to work up staffing plans in the next 45 days,” he said. “We have a robust marketing, visibility and business development strategy rolling” to secure work for the Rockford jet repair hub.