A plane sits waiting for a pre-flight inspection in one of the large hangars at Brunswick Executive Airport. (Photo courtesy of American Classic Aviation)

BRUNSWICK — In the nine years since the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority took over the former Brunswick Naval Air Station, Brunswick Executive Airport has seen steady growth, with an average 12% annual increase in air operations

Moving into 2020, the redevelopment authority is looking to hire a new airport manager to help continue this pattern of growth. 

“It’s a pretty busy job,” MRRA Executive Director Steve Levesque said, “it’s a growing airport.” 

The airport saw 24,250 takeoffs and landings in 2019, according to Levesque, an 18% increase over the year before.

Aeronautic and drone-based businesses are continuing to move in and expand, he said, with about 16 businesses currently in residence and roughly 36 base aircraft calling the airport home. 

One of those businesses is American Classic Aviation, an airplane maintenance company that also leases its aircraft to American Classic Flying Club, run by ACA owner David Keen. 

In the past few years, American Classic Aviation has taken on up to 22,000 square feet of hangar space, grown its club member base to 25 and instructed dozens of community members, including multiple women, in the ground school. 

“We’ve seen some pretty significant growth,” Keen said. 

The Brunswick Executive Airport is a real draw for businesses, he added, with the “8,000-foot runways, maintenance facilities, buildings are a reasonable cost…” Portland has a great airport, but because it is more crowded, it can be difficult to use at times, he said, especially for people still learning. 

In November, the airport surpassed the number of flight operations (22,847) the active-duty Naval Air Station did in 2005, the last year all the base squadrons were fully operational. 

Levesque also hopes to have a new aviation technician school in place by the end of the year. The redevelopment authority recently completed a market study and is now seeking “expressions of interest” from qualified schools. 

“The state of Maine has a large and growing aerospace industry, with aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul companies, aircraft manufacturers and aviation service companies opening or expanding throughout the state,” according to the request. 

“While Maine has a strong capable and reliable workforce with technical and mechanical skills, there is no in-state source for training and certifying the hundreds of aircraft maintenance technicians required to support the state’s rapidly growing aerospace industry,” it continues, adding that the school could be in partnership with Maine’s community college system. 

“Once established, the school should have the ability to provide the skilled workforce required to meet the demands of the growing Maine aerospace industry,” according to the request. 

The school would be great for Brunswick, Keen agreed. 

“I’m all on board. It’s a great place to have it and it would draw people not only from Maine, but also Massachusetts. There’s not a school that close,” and people are always looking for technicians, he said. 

“We hope to be an aviation hub,” Levesque said. “We view the airport as a significant economic asset for the state and region.”

In October, the authority completed construction on Hangar 7, a new 15,000-square-foot hangar.

Hangar space can be hard to lease, Levesque said in an earlier interview, in part because of Maine’s harsh climate. Electric costs are higher in the Northeast and runways need to be cleared of snow. During a cold snap, it can cost up to $20,000 per month to heat a single hangar, split among the tenants, he said at the time. 

Of the approximately 650,000 square feet of hangar space and maintenance facilities, there are about 120,000 square feet still available he said Friday. 

The new $3.5 million hangar was funded by a $6.2 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration to help draw more businesses to the airport. The new, smaller Hangar 7 will help FlightLevel Aviation and other businesses operating out of the airport save on heat, Levesque said this fall, as opening the big hangar doors for every little plane that comes in and out can get expensive. 

The hangar, Levesque said, opens up opportunities for larger companies with larger aircraft to use space in Hangar 6, which is large enough to hold six Boeing 737s.

The airport is also in the midst of a 10-year, $40 million investment program with the Federal Aviation Administration, for safety upgrades and improvements, like insulating the hangar doors, installing radiant heating, bringing the restrooms up to code, switching to energy-efficient lighting and other “significant spruce ups.”  


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