Romulus— Spirit Airlines is nearing completion of its state-of-the-art maintenance hangar here to repair its fleet. It will also allow more planes to be stored at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, which officials say could lead to more flights for travelers.
The $32 million hangar, the first one constructed from the ground up at the airport in nearly two decades, is slated to open this spring and is expected to become the jewel of Spirit’s repair operations, training and other options. It will bring a few hundred jobs to the region.
The more planes that fly into Metro Airport either for maintenance or picking up passengers, officials say, the more profit the airport makes and the potential for additional flights on the Florida-based carrier increases.
“Anywhere that they fly, we will be able to bring them here,” said Joseph Resnik, vice president of safety for Spirit who flies into Detroit almost every week to help oversee the hangar’s construction.
“It will cover the entire fleet. We’ve got 95 aircraft right now. And we’re continuing to grow.”
Spirit is already moving to add more flights. On Jan. 10, the airline announced it is providing seasonal flights to Oakland and Seattle out of Metro. The airline operates out of five gates at Metro’s North Terminal.
“We’ve actually started to increase the (flight) schedule already getting prepared for the hangar,” Resnik said. “And that would continue to increase. We used to average 22 flights a day, roughly. Now, we’re up above 30 right now.”
Spirit started in Detroit as a charter then began flying scheduled flights to Atlantic City. It moved its headquarters to Miramar, Florida, in 1999.
The new hangar sits just to the west of the North and McNamara terminals next to one operated by FedEx at the back of the airport.
C.W. Sandifer, senior director of corporate real estate for Spirit, said the hangar will be an important piece for the airline and a boon for the airport as flights and traffic in and out of Metro increase.
“More landed weight on the airfield, which means that we’re putting more weight in ... all airlines pay a landing fee,” Sandifer said. “It’s a benefit for the airport because it makes the airport more attractive from a costs standpoint.
“When you start getting high-density aircraft and more of them in, you’re pushing more seats, you’re pushing more people, all those people, they go through the airport, they spend the money with the concessions, they park, and they are not from here, they are bringing more people into the city.”
The 126,000-square-foot hangar was announced in summer 2015, a deal sweetened by Romulus officials with a 10-year tax abatement. The hangar can hold three of the airline’s largest aircraft but primarily will be used for overnight maintenance and repairs.
The airline can handle from eight to 11 aircraft per evening on the grounds and in the facility, depending on the season. On the building not yet adorned with the Spirit logo, the 80-foot-wide doors can slide from one side or the other to accommodate the planes entering nose or tail in.
Metro was chosen, Resnik said, over several other airports because of the marketing schedule, the available space and incentives provided by Romulus and airport officials.
A recent tour of the facility shows a new, towering, cavernous hangar. Spirit officials say the facility will offer engine and gear changes. Resnik said this is the first hangar built since 2009 in the Spirit system.
The hangar will have an engine repair shop room that will store whole spare engines and parts.
Resnik said the hangar would be most busy between 8-9 p.m. to 6-7 a.m., when the planes would be ready to take off for other locations.
Metro Airport has eight hangars that consist of carriers and other aviation facilities for smaller aircraft. Delta Air lines, which has a hub in Detroit, operates two of those hangars.
“Aviation infrastructure creates jobs and economic opportunity,” said Joseph Nardone, CEO of the Wayne County Airport Authority, which oversees development at Metro. “We are very happy that Spirit chose to build this important maintenance hangar here in Detroit, where their company first took flight. This project is evidence that with strong partnerships and teamwork, we can create new, exciting opportunities for economic growth here in Detroit and throughout our region.”
Wendy Sutton, director of real estate for the Wayne County Airport Authority, said there were some initial challenges to get a deal in place in respect to Federal Aviation Administration requirements, such as the location of the building and construction.
“We’re really excited that all these players came together to make this happen,” Sutton said.
“It’s a $32 million investment, the brand-new aircraft maintenance repair operation on our field, which is important to the airport. And the job creation and the trickle-down effect that it has. Increase landing weight means additional revenues to the airport, increased passengers means additional revenues to our concessions in the terminal. We couldn’t be more excited.”