Production of aircraft to resume after 20 years

Published: Tuesday, September 3, 2019 By: Daisy Creager Source: The Journal Record

Commander Aircraft Corp. announced Thursday plans to expand its presence in Norman with an $8 million facility to bring into production a single-engine aircraft that has not been made since 2002.

The 100,000-square-foot facility will be constructed in the next three years in University North Park Advanced Manufacturing Center.

CAC began producing the aircraft in 1972, but filed for bankruptcy and stopped manufacturing in 2002. The company has two hangars at the Max Westheimer Airport and 750 original aircraft in service, with plans to make 25-50 a year, depending on the market.

“It was always an outstanding aircraft. It’s metal construction, it’s heavily built, it’s well designed. It’s going through some upgrades and modernizations,” CAC Marketing Manager Don Wood said. “It’s been 20 years since they’ve been made, so the new airplanes will have glass panels and other aerodynamic upgrades and probably bigger engines.”

A time frame for the facility’s completion has not been set, but when working at full capacity, the facility will create 30 to 50 jobs in aerospace and mechanical engineering and have an economic impact of $75 million in the next 10 years.

Norman Economic Development Coalition Interim President Maureen Hammond said the agency marketed aggressively for the company to remain in Norman when discussions of the expansion began.

She said proximity to the airport and the low price of the space NEDC offered were likely pulls for the company.

“I think (the expansion) provides a lot of opportunities in aerospace. Aerospace is one of the state’s target industries as well as one of our target industries in Norman,” Hammond said. “We’re looking forward to working with Commander, but also looking at other companies and aerospace partners to bring to Norman.”

Wood said the company wanted to stay near its roots and chose Norman, in part, to tap into the pool of former employees who may still be around.

“We thought it gave us an advantage, a leg up in starting up production by having people that actually produced the plane and were involved in it earlier,” Wood said.

CAC General Manager Borui Mao said in a press release the city of Norman was clear about its interest in keeping its business and a partnership with the University of Oklahoma.

“We see international opportunities for the Commander model. We anticipate an increase in demand for new models and we looked at several different markets for our expansion and production facility,” Mao said.

“We are well aware of the talent at OU, and we are looking to them for their best engineering graduates and interns.”

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