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HAECO CEO Richard Kendall talks about company’s expansion

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- He runs one of the Piedmont’s largest companies and it’s about to get a lot bigger.

Richard Kendall has lived the world-over. He’s called Zanzibar, Great Britain, New Zealand, Australia, New Guinea, Japan and San Francisco home. Now, he’s in Greensboro running HAECO Americas.

HAECO is an acronym for Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company which reflects the company’s Southeast Asian roots. But its United States headquarters is right here in the Piedmont Triad.

At its large complex of buildings across the main runway from the Piedmont Triad International Airport’s passenger terminal, 1,400 people work. Many are licensed mechanics and technicians who service, repair and do required maintenance checks on primarily narrow-bodied aircraft for some of the major passenger airlines (including Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s).

HAECO Americas also has a large contract with the U.S. Air Force to service and/or overhaul its KC-10 in-flight refueling tanker fleet.

Think of your car’s oil change, but a lot more technical.

“It’s a similar concept,” Kendall told me recently. “But I would say a lot more technical, and given the fact these machines are flying several hundred people there’s obviously a significant focus on airworthiness.”

In addition to its airframe services facilities at the airport, HAECO Americas also consist of a “Cabin Solutions” division which includes a new building it recently bought in High Point as well as a facility in Davidson County. In these complexes, 700 workers design and build things you’ll find in an airplane’s interior: seating, galleys, partitions, lavatories and storage areas.

But it’s a 250,000-square-foot, $69 million hangar back at the airport that represents one of HAECO’s largest local expansions to date. It’s set to open in early 2018.

When complete, this hangar will enable the company to overhaul the new generation of wide-bodied aircraft. (Like the Boeing 777x and the Airbus A330).

“We could easily get two of the very largest aircraft in there plus three or four more,” said Kendall. “We expect (with this hangar) to increase our workforce by about 400 to 500 people.”

That is, if the company can find people who are qualified to work on the planes. It’s been one of HAECO’s biggest challenges in recent years.

This is why it’s been supporting and recruiting within Guilford Technical Community College’s aviation program. It also supports the aviation classes at High Point Andrews High School and sponsors the HAECO Invitational High School Basketball Tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex each December.

“Most of the skills can actually be learned and there is certainly capability within our organization and in the colleges to teach those skills,” Kendall said.

If you’re interested in a career with HAECO, click here for more information.