A $245.8 million Boeing facility described as a magnet for attracting other aeronautics and space companies to Jacksonville opened Feb. 9 with a ribbon-cutting that drew congressional, state and local officials.
Boeing’s Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul hangar, at Cecil Airport in West Jacksonville, will accommodate work on P-8 maritime patrol aircraft, KC-46 refueler/transport planes and F/A-18 Super Hornet jets.
The FA-18s flown by the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels flight demonstration team are among the aircraft that will undergo maintenance at the 385,000-square-foot facility, where structural repair work and avionics upgrades also will be performed.
Impact on city
Mark VanLoh, CEO of the Jacksonville Aviation Authority, used a fast-food comparison to describe the effect of Boeing’s investment on development of the aviation industry in Jacksonville.
“You think about Burger King and McDonald’s – wherever you see a McDonald’s, you see a Burger King,” he said. “So we’re going to start to see major suppliers to Boeing pop up all around Cecil. And it’s going to continue on for many, many years.”
Asked whether the JAA was talking with aeronautics companies about locating in Jacksonville, VanLoh said, “Every day.”
U.S. Reps. John Rutherford and Aaron Bean spoke at the ceremony, as did Florida Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez and Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan. City Council members Nick Howland, Randy White, Ken Amaro and Rahman Johnson attended but did not present remarks.
Deal a partnership
The project was a partnership between Boeing, JAA and the city.
Boeing signed a 25-year lease agreement with JAA in December 2020 to expand the company’s operations at Cecil, and the city provided Boeing with a $425,000 grant to assist with the estimated $3 million in infrastructure expenditures for the project over three years.
JAA is paying for the project through debt financing.
Boeing said the facility and an adjacent Component Operations Repair facility would create more than 300 jobs and bring the aerospace company’s footprint at Cecil to more than 546,000 square feet. The company listed the costs of the MRO and Component Operations facilities at $188.5 million and $57.3 million, respectively.
Bean, in remarks that drew on the movie “Field of Dreams” and the airport’s former name, Naval Air Station Cecil Field, said the building was a return on investments in infrastructure needed to attract Boeing and other companies to Jacksonville.
“When it comes to commercial and military aviation, Cecil Field is indeed the field of dreams. And with Boeing in the lineup it’s not only a home run for Jacksonville, it’s a home run for the state of Florida and the United States of America. Welcome, Boeing. Glad to have you here. Play ball.”
Announced in 2020
Boeing and JAA announced the hangar project in December 2020. The company has operated at Cecil since 1999 and has modified and upgraded more than 1,000 aircraft at the airport since that time.
The new MRO features eight hangar bays along with 110,000 square feet of office and support space. It can accommodate up to eight P-8 aircraft, and its ramp area can hold as many as 14 fighter jets.
The Haskell Co. was the contractor on the MRO hangar. Clayco Construction Co. Inc. built the Component Operations facility.
Rutherford commended Boeing’s staff and leadership for their role in forging the partnership and for 25 years of service to the community and the nation.
“I’ve toured the Boeing facility out here where all the great work has been done on F-16s and F-18s,” he said. “That’s how you squeeze 30 or 40 years out of an aircraft. You have these great maintainers who have such skills.”
Boeing said military veterans make up 60% of its workforce.
Deegan said the city’s partnership with Boeing showed Jacksonville as being “the most veteran- and military-friendly city in the United States.” She applauded Boeing for bringing good-paying, high-demand and highly skilled jobs to Jacksonville for both veterans and nonmilitary jobseekers.
“Expanding Boeing’s operation here is proof of Jacksonville’s growth potential,” she said. “It’s also a testament to the cutting-edge, innovative opportunities that are on the rise in our city.”
Chris Raymond, president and CEO of Boeing Global Services, thanked guests and members of the company’s Jacksonville and Florida workforce.
“You’ve made Jacksonville a world-renowned center for aerospace work and defense work,” he said.
The opening comes as Boeing undergoes scrutiny in the safety of its commercial aircraft after the Jan. 5 in-flight blowout of a door plug on a 737 MAX 9 airliner. On Feb. 4, the company announced it would do more work on about 50 undelivered 737 MAX after the discovery of misdrilled holes on some fuselages.
“Safety is our No. 1 priority no matter where you are with Boeing,” said Rhiannon Sherrard, Boeing Jacksonville executive site director. “Our commitment here with our workforce, we bring training, talent and safety to the forefront of everything we do.”