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SLIDE SHOW: a new home for advanced helicopter facility in Langley

Vector Aerospace company gives a look inside just-completed building
Vector Aerospace Avionic Technician Alan Garner is one of about 100 staff who were relocated from five different buildings to the new facility at the Langley airport. Dan Ferguson Langley Times

There is still a faint odour of fresh paint hanging in the air on the day Rick Pataky, Vector Aerospace Vice President, Operations - Airframe walks a visitor from The Times through a second-floor door into the cavernous expanse of the company’s new shop, a gigantic expanse of gleaming white floor tiles and high-tech gear.

“The painters were touching it up yesterday,” Pataky says.

“We’re still getting things set up the way we want.”

Several helicopters are precisely arranged along the well-polished floor, surrounded by an elaborate array of racks and jigs and other heavy-duty hardware that can, if needed, strip a helicopter down to its frame and then make sure that frame is perfectly straight before it is rebuilt with state-of-the-art avionics.

Overhead, a bright yellow industrial crane that runs overhead on heavy rails is waiting to lift something heavy.

In a separate space behind the crane, a towering machine stores spare parts on a carousel that can be rotated through its four-storey height to locate a needed piece.

Vector in Langley carries out a wide range of major helicopter repairs, inspections and overhauls, including rebuilds and refurbishments, airframe and avionic refits and upgrades and custom interiors and modifications.

Copters come in from as far away as Latin America, Tunisia and China, and teams from the Langley facility also travel around the world to bring their expertise to Vector clients.

The Langley facility is part of the larger Vector Aerospace company that operates facilities in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, South Africa and Australia.

According to the Vector website, the Langley facility can handle a wide range of specialized structural repair, avionics upgrades and modifications, including customizing helicopters for use as electronic news gathering (ENG) helicopters.

It took a month to relocate people, parts, equipment and aircraft from six different, cramped, locations into the roomy new facility.

The new space is 84,000 sq. ft and roughly four stories tall, big enough to accommodate all the current work and the 100 staff who carry it out, with room to expand.

And if the new facility does require more room, Vector won’t have to look far to find it, Pataky says.

“(We’ll) just go further out to the parking lot.”

He is pleased with how the new premises turned out, describing the new building as an “industry-leading facility” that will allow Vector to operate faster and more efficiently than it did when work was distributed among several buildings.

“We’ll be able to deliver our products sooner,” Pataky says.

“We’ll reduce our turnaround time.”

Pataky makes a point of praising the people who do the work, calling them an an “experienced, dedicated work force.”

He also has positive things to say about the airport, calling it “more than supportive of the company” and giving a thumbs-up to the community for backing the company as well.

But when it comes to the reason why the building was delayed as long it was, Pataky politely, but firmly, declines to discuss the complications that delayed completion, saying it is a legal matter that he cannot talk about

The project was first announced in February, 2012.

READ MORE: Why work on the new Vector hangar in Langley was halted

Court documents show the dispute that slowed construction of the new Vector Aerospace shop and office building at the Langley airport was a battle over requested changes to the design that ended with a B.C. Supreme Court order turning the partly-built facility over to Vector.

The written submissions show work on the project was halted as it was nearing completion because of a dispute between Vector and two firms with near-identical names, Aries Construction Management (2014) and Aries Construction Management Ltd, who held the lease for the property and were in charge of building the facility.

Work on the 63,100 sq. ft hangar with 21,500 sq. ft of office space ground to a halt after Vector and the Aries companies deadlocked over some requested design changes.

The Aries companies said Vector was asking for alterations that amounted to a “wholesale change to the interior” of the building and should pay another $2 million on top of the $7 million price.

Vector said the changes were covered by the contract, which set a fixed price for the project and allowed for alterations.

READ MORE: Langley firm hires giant jet to haul helicopters

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An older helicopter is in the middle of an update to current technology at the new Vector Aerospace facility in Langley. Dan Ferguson Langley Times
This is what a complete teardown of a helicopter looks like. Vector technician Len Meredith takes an AS350 down to the frame in the cavernous mechanical area of the company’s new Langley facility. Dan Ferguson Langley Times
Vector structures tech Mike Prawdzik at work in the company’s new Langley facility. Dan Ferguson Langley Times
About 100 people have been relocated from separate buildings into the new Vector facility. Dan Ferguson Langley Times
The new Vector facility at the north end of the Langley airport. Dan Ferguson Langley Times
A helicopter tail section is adjusted at the new Vector facility in Langley. Dan Ferguson Langley Times.

Dan Ferguson

About the Author: Dan Ferguson

Best recognized for my resemblance to St. Nick, I’m the guy you’ll often see out at community events and happenings around town.
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