Ledcor Construction and KF Aerospace recently gave a group of special guests an inside look at their highly innovative 150,000-square-foot hangar expansion project at John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport, to enthusiastic reviews.
The $40-million expansion of its hangar space will permit KF crews to maintain the massive Boeing 777 and the wide-body 787 along with smaller planes. And the project will also allow KF to provide leading-edge shops, classroom and hangar space for Mohawk College’s Aircraft Maintenance Engineer programs in one of the two new hangars constructed.
Two dozen members of the Canadian Association of Women in Construction (CAWIC) were given a tour last month that highlighted such unique construction features and processes as the lightning-quick construction timeline on the first new hangar — the first shovel went in the ground just last April and commissioning is to be this month, thanks to pre-engineered modular construction — and super-responsive 67-foot-tall sliding doors that can be stopped in three seconds with only fingertip pressure.
“We came here today because it’s a great project,” said Trudy Case, CAWIC board member and a project manager with Kitchener’s Ground Force Environmental.
“This is an exciting project and they got us excited about it as well.”
KF, based in Kelowna, B.C., currently employs 150 people at its Hamilton hangar with customers from such airlines as Westjet, Sunquest and Air Inuit, and expects to attract a lot more work and hire perhaps 275 more workers with the additional capacity.
“They do a lot of work for Westjet, that is one of the reasons they are in a big rush for this hangar,” said Ledcor senior project manager Scott Fletcher. “They want to be the first maintenance facility that can take a 787.”
The owner worked with Ledcor and NA Engineering out of Stratford, Ont. on design engineering.
“They are smaller but flexible,” Fletcher said of NA. “We thought they were a good fit with this client, and with how fast we needed to be able to turn it around, we needed to hit the ground running.”
The decision was made to go with pre-engineered siding and roofing manufactured by Behlen Industries of Brandon, Man. Pre-eng gives Ledcor more open floor space than with conventional stick-built and it’s a faster and cheaper process because the panels are lighter and quicker to erect, Fletcher said. The siding, built with steel and other materials, comes with insulation which also saves on timing.
“It allows us to get our building envelope up faster and of course it is a big savings for the owner,” he explained, saying assembly of the parts was like a “giant erector set.”
The teams at Behlens and in Hamilton worked well in synch, Fletcher reported — there was no torch work required to make the trucked-in pieces fit into place.
Bolts manufactured in Hamilton measuring up to five feet long were used in assembly.
With planes as heavy as the 777 and the 787, extra care had to be taken to engineer the concrete flooring, with steel-reinforced slabs up to 16 inches thick installed so as to distribute weight — it’s almost a trampoline effect, Fletcher said, as the huge planes are wheeled in. The 777 is probably the heaviest plane on the market, he noted.
Up top in the new hangar, amidst an assortment of perlins, girds, truss beams, brace beams and angle and cross bracing, Ledcor had to install trolley tracks for the attachment of access harnesses for workers maintaining the wings and fuselage.
The immense hangar doors took special customization, Fletcher explained. There are three of them on the new hangar, equipped with steel wheels sliding on electronically heat-traced tracks.
The customized engineering enables the doors to open and close faster than previous incarnations. Each door has its own motor so it can be operated independently using a constant-pressure button, and all are fire alarmed.
“With the constant-pressure button, you walk along with your hand on the door, and as soon as you take your hand off the door it will come to a complete stop in three seconds,” Fletcher said.
The project also involves an addition to an existing annex. Construction on the new Mohawk hangar began recently with completion targeted for the start of classes next fall.
For the CAWIC members, it was a rare opportunity to observe a unique project in an innovative sector. Trudy Case said the current board is stepping up its lineup of special events this year as a way to expose members to the broadest possible experiences. Founding member Angela Wilson, a sales manager with Canadian Asphalt, said the hangar project could serve as inspiration for young women looking for stimulating career paths.
“We want women to have a well-rounded professional experience,” said Wilson.
“These women today are observing project managing, business development in creating airport facilities, and hangars, something that we as women don’t generally consider as a profession.”
Follow Don Wall on Twitter @DonWall_DCN.