Hope Aero’s maintenance and overhaul facility in Mississauga, Ont., near Pearson International Airport, is a hive of activity on any given day, with dozens of employees steadily working on aircraft wheels and brakes, propellers, and non-destructive testing.
Massive wheel and brake assemblies line the shop floor, making their way through an assembly line before being shipped back out to Pearson and placed on aircraft from Air Canada, WestJet and many other big-name clients.
The sheer size of Toronto, and its proximity to Montreal, dictates the size and scope of Hope Aero’s workload–about 10,000 wheels and brakes and 1,200 propellers in a given year.
And while those kinds of numbers may never be seen in the company’s new Winnipeg facility, officially opened Jan. 1 as part of a new Centre of Excellence for maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO), the company sees a great deal of potential there.
“We saw the need to go back out west to help West Coast operations, and also to stretch ourselves over the country,” said Joel Chlan, president and CEO of Hope Aero.
“Having a facility in Winnipeg definitely helps give us more of a presence in the western provinces.”
Hope Aero is one of two Air Canada partners actively involved in the Centre of Excellence, which is located in the Air Canada hangar at Winnipeg Richardson International Airport.
Air Canada is subleasing 20,000 square feet in the hangar to Hope Aero, as well as space to Airbase Services Inc., a company that specializes in aircraft interior equipment maintenance.
Hope Aero plans to focus exclusively on wheels and brakes at its Winnipeg facility, servicing Air Canada aircraft flying in Western Canada. The company said it has other clients lined up.
“Toronto is very far removed from anything in the West, and it does create extra turn times on our product there,” said Chlan.
“[This] just gets us a step further to the West Coast, in terms of turning around product and getting it back to the customer in a more efficient manner.”
Hope Aero has roots in Winnipeg dating back to 1958, when company founder Harry Hope opened a branch of Western Propeller.
Harry bought a 50 per cent stake in Western Propeller (Winnipeg) Ltd. in 1964 and moved east in 1969 to open an overhaul shop in Malton, Ont., about two kilometres from the company’s current Mississauga facility.
The Hope family became sole owners of the company in 1993 and grew it exponentially, from 250 work orders in its first year to more than 12,000 work orders per year today.
Harry’s son Terry Hope, the company’s vice-president of health and safety, worked closely with Chlan to set up the Winnipeg facility, helping ensure it meets the same high standards as the Mississauga location.
“We knew that by basing it off our template that works here, it’s going to work very well for Winnipeg–which it has so far, to this day,” said Chlan.
“We got everything set up in the right manner, and also we do have continuous checks going out there.
“So we do have team members from our facility going out there to help out, and aid with any product that needed to be down there, and also teach the Hope Aero Way.”
Hope Aero had two employees at its launch date and has since hired a third worker, with the goal of employing a total of 20 people within the next two years.
“We think it’s a great opportunity,” said Chlan. “Any time we can supply a product back to the customer in a quick and efficient manner with the same quality, it’s always exciting.”
The company is planning to extend its reach through sales calls and trade shows in 2018, spreading the word that it’s open for business.
Hope Aero is also planning a spring open house at its Winnipeg facility, and all are welcome to attend.
“We are having a world class product coming out of that facility, the same as it would be here in Toronto,” said Chlan.
“It’s just a little bit closer.”