WACO Aircraft Co. is embarking on an $18 million expansion at the W.K. Kellogg Airport that will include additional space for visiting private pilots and a restaurant that will be open to the general public.
Peter Bowers, president of WACO, said his company is adding about 80,000 square feet of new space which will include a new office complex with a reception area for aviators coming into Battle Creek. He says the new building also will include a larger space for his mechanics and avionics department.
The second floor of the building will be the site of the as yet unnamed restaurant that will have seating for 100 people.
Bowers says that half of the space on the second floor will be dedicated to an aerospace engineering department.
“We expect the work to be completed sometime between March and May, 2020,” Bowers says. “We’re also adding about 18,000 square feet of additional manufacturing space and two large hangars to accommodate people traveling through the city.”
The expansion plans follow the sale of WACO November 2018 to Dimor Group Inc., of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., which is a subsidiary of Dimor Aero of Cologne, Germany.
Bowers remained president after the sale of his company which is now a subsidiary of Dimor. “The owner of Dimor is a customer of ours and he obviously was a fan and wanted to own the company,” Bowers says.
WACO was founded in 1983 as the Classic Aircraft Corporation. The aircraft manufacturer will continue producing their famed bi-planes but also will begin production in Battle Creek on another vintage aircraft, the Junkers F-13, and an aerobatic airplane, which will be sold for flight training and flight instruction.
Bowers says his company will continue to build eight to 10 of its bi-planes a year plus the F-13 and could build 30 to 40 a year of the aerobatic planes for a world market. “This will give us the space to build new planes that will be WACO planes,” he says. “One will be vintage and the other will be aerobatic.”
He adds, “Business is good right now because the economy is strong.”
The expansion, he says, will provide opportunities to expand and grow WACO while also providing space for other aircraft projects that he and his team will be bringing on board. WACO currently employs 40 people and Bowers says he anticipates employing a total of 60 people by 2020.
In addition to the new building and expansion plans, Bowers says his company has two new aircraft certification projects that they will be starting at the airport.
“We decided to expand here because the infrastructure was already here and because the airport and the city have been so very helpful in getting this project going,” Bowers says.