Wayne Bradbury first took up residence at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport more than 30 years ago.
He became the director of maintenance for Bernie Little Distributors in 1981 and oversaw a fleet that included a Lear jet, a Gulfstream, bell helicopters, and more.
In 1992, he founded Dixie Jet and Rotor Service at the airport, which performs aircraft maintenance specializing in heavy helicopter maintenance and overhauling.
Now he’s looking for more space.
“The goal is to have a fresh new facility in a different part of the airport,” Bradbury said.
The business presently occupies about 14,000 square feet of space at the airport. Dixie Jet and Rotor Service has a 10,000-square-foot-hangar and a 4,000-square-foot administrative building.
Bradbury is interested in having a new building constructed for a couple of different reasons.
“There is no existing building in the airport that is helicopter user-friendly,” he said.
Dixie Jet and Rotor Service is an FAA-approved certified repair station for and an AgustaWestland-authorized service center.
AgustaWestland is an Anglo-Italian multinational helicopter design and manufacturing company.
“AgustaWestland is looking for a larger presence in the Southeast,” Bradbury said.
The company has offices throughout Europe and its main U.S. office is in Arlington, Va. “It’ll be good to have a newer, more modern building for our operations.”
In addition to helicopters, the business also services other aircraft such as Lear jets and the Hawker 400 Beechjet.
Bradbury has been collaborating with airport director Gene Conrad on the logistics for the proposed project.
The City of Lakeland owns and operates Lakeland Linder Regional Airport.
“We’re working with the (City of Lakeland) Finance Department on several projects at the airport, and this is one of them,” Conrad said. “After that, we still have to work on designing the facility, putting out a bid, and getting it built.
“I’d say we’re still about three or four months away from being able to pull the trigger and say, ‘Let’s go.'”
The proposed, 3- to 4-acre site for Dixie’s new home is located on the northwest side of Runway 9, according to Conrad.
Bradbury said there would be space for the initial construction of a 12,000-square-foot hangar and a 4,000-square foot administrative building, with enough room left over for the addition of a second 12,000-square foot hangar.
Dixie Jet and Rotor Service presently has 11 employees, but upon the completion of a second hangar — which Bradbury hopes to have done by the end of 2016 — the company could expand to about 25 workers.
Conrad said the benefits of building a bigger facility are two-fold. The airport gets to retain a long-standing tenant, while Dixie’s existing hangar and administrative building would be free to accommodate a new business.
“We’ve got about one million square feet here and we’re at 100 percent occupancy,” Conrad said. “We don’t want them to go to another airport because they’re a great business that’s been here for a long time.
“Our No. 1 task at the airport is to create economic development and more aviation jobs.”
[ John Ceballos can be reached at email@example.com or 863-802-7515. ]