C.J. Stafford, 6, of Portland turns a Hamilton Standard Propeller on display at the Great State of Maine Air Show at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station on Friday.
BRUNSWICK - With air show stunt pilots thundering overhead and filling the skies above Brunswick with noise and wonder, Dave Arden stood inside a quiet hangar Friday and talked about the future of aeronautics in Maine.
The setting was the Great State of Maine Air Show, which continues through the weekend. With their speedy jets and tight flying formations, the Blue Angels flight team draws much of the attention. But in a subtle way, Arden is the star of the show.
He's not a pilot, he probably won't jump out of a plane with a parachute, and he's certainly not a wing walker. Nonetheless, Arden, who lives in Yarmouth with his wife and kids, represents the new face of the aeronautics industry in Maine. It's a multimillion-dollar growth industry, and the source of good, high-paying private-sector jobs.
Arden, who lost his job at Bath Iron Works in January, was the first Maine resident hired by the Kestrel Aircraft Co. Kestrel recently began operations in a hangar on the grounds of the now-closed Brunswick Naval Air Station, site of the air show.
Kestrel makes small, single-engine aircraft with a carbon fiber fuselage, a material perfected in the modern boat-building industry. It is scheduled to produce its first plane in 2014.
"I was trying to find a job in Maine. I wanted to stay here, but we all know that it's not easy to find a job in Maine these days. I was in the right place at the right time," Arden said. "Getting laid off was terrible. It was a tough experience. But I am very happy where I am now."
Arden greeted visitors at the Kestrel display in the air show's Business Aviation Expo, which features a handful of Maine aeronautics companies.
Kestrel expanded its operation from Minnesota to Brunswick because "of the great pool of skilled people that know how to work with carbon fiber," said Joe Thorne, who specializes in international development for Kestrel. "There's great synergy between our industry and the boat-building industry."
In addition to BIW, Kestrel also has plucked workers from traditional Maine companies such as Hodgdon Yachts in East Boothbay.
Near the Kestrel display at the air show, Richard Grich, director of the Maine Aerospace Alliance, touted the strength of the industry. Maine is host to a $500 million aerospace industry, Grich said. But it is among the quietest and least-known major industries in the state.
"The outside world doesn't know it. So I am trying to publicize it," he said. "There's a lot going on in aerospace in Maine, including education and business development. We're drawing business to Maine. We are creating jobs."
Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:
Duane Godsoe of New Brunswick holds up his son Jayden, 3, to look into an example of a fuselage made by the Kestrel Aircraft Co. on display during the Great State of Maine Air Show at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station on Friday.