Bellanca to move out of Alexandria
The Bellanca building at the Alexandria Airport will now be empty for a while as Bellanca is set to move to Oklahoma.
ALEXANDRIA – The last remnants of what was once a thriving industry in Alexandria are moving out of town.
At the end of the month, Bellanca Inc. is moving its aircraft parts out of the Alexandria Airport. The parts are headed to new Bellanca owners in Sulphur, Oklahoma.
Bellanca, which was owned by Alexandria Aircraft LLC, along with everything in the old Bellanca building – parts, materials, tools, the rights and paperwork from the FAA to make some Bellanca models – have been leased to a group, Bellanca Aircraft LLC. The group includes Viking model enthusiasts.
The Viking and Super Viking aircraft are known for their unique wood-wing design, high performance, and outstanding quality and craftsmanship, according to the website, www.bellanca-championclub.com , that was created by a group of six aviation professionals.
Approximately 1,700 of these aircraft were manufactured in Alexandria since 1956, the website said.
Alexandria Airport Manager Kreg Anderson said the new owners are Viking aircraft enthusiasts and are active in the community.
“People with cars, like Corvette groups and stuff like that, it's the same thing with airplanes,” Anderson said. “They call them clubs….A couple of the new owners are mechanics, and they’ll see an opportunity to continue providing that type club or community access to the parts, repairs, restorations, etc.”
According to Anderson, only about three or four Bellanca employees work in Alexandria and he believes they’ve retired or moved south for the winter.
The reason for the move appears to be centered around geographic location.
“The majority of Bellanca aircraft are located in the southern region, mainly in Texas,” said Rob Swanlund, a vice president of operations for Bellanca. “Having a maintenance facility that is within easy flying distance from this group of aircraft in Texas and the Southwest is vitally important.”
Sulphur is located in the south central part of Oklahoma and is about 70 miles north of the Texas-Oklahoma border.
Bellanca’s history and impact
Alexandria has a long history with Bellanca dating back to the 1950s.
Giuseppe Bellanca, who founded the AviaBellanca Aircraft in 1925, had a company out in Delaware that he had put up for sale in 1955.
A group of businessmen bought the assets of the company and moved it to Alexandria in 1955.
“At the time, in about 1955, the airport was kind of just getting rolling,” Anderson said. “During World War II, the Army Air Corps had it, so it was really a military airport. And then when the war ended they gave it to the city, and kinda said, ‘OK, here you guys go do what you want.’”
The influx of jobs this move created had a direct impact on the local economy.
“That was a huge, huge economic input,” Anderson said. “It was economic growth for our community, because you've got tens, if not hundreds of jobs coming to our small town. I think it helped develop the south side a little bit. They just kept growing and developing.”
Long story short, said Anderson, is that from about 1955 to this year, it was producing airplanes.
Anderson says the new group is in the process of moving all the assets and doing paperwork, such as getting the necessary certificates and prints.
According to Anderson, this lease won’t have much effect on the operations of the airport.
“Probably for the last 15-20 years, they've had three full-time employees (in Alexandria), and they do restoration work and sell parts. So a lot of their business or sales isn't directly correlated to airplanes flying in and out,” Anderson said.
“I mean, operations wise, it's not going to change much,” he added. “But you never want to see a business leave, right? They definitely were here for years; they kind of worked in partnership with the local maintenance shop.”
Anderson said the shop specialized in Bellancas and it would supply the parts when the planes came in for maintenance.
Will a restaurant replace Bellanca?
In the absence of Bellanca, the maintenance shop will still be open for maintenance customers.
As for the future of what will replace the Bellanca building, which is a city owned building now, Anderson has an idea or two of what he would like to see fill the area – either another manufacturing company or an airport-themed restaurant.
“Some type of maintenance would be great,” Anderson said. “One of my biggest things I'm also wanting to list for the airport is some aviation-themed restaurants. That's pretty popular. People on Saturday morning, for fun, will go fly somewhere. Brainerd is a popular destination for breakfast again. A restaurant right on the airport. I would love to see something like that.”
There are some regulations as to who could rent the facility.
“So we do have some stipulations put on us by the FAA and the city about who would be able to rent the facility since it's an airport facility,” Anderson said.
There currently is no timetable as to when the space will be filled, other than Anderson saying he wants to see it filled “at some point.”