A Finnish-American venture has chosen Brunswick Landing as the site of a production facility for building high-performance amphibious aircraft, becoming the latest aviation-related business to call the former Navy base home.

Atol USA is a joint venture between Atol Avion, based in Finland, and a U.S.-based investor group. The company also intends to establish its North American headquarters at Brunswick Landing.

“North America is the biggest aviation market with huge demand for seaplanes, and we think Atol USA Inc. is the best and fastest solution for us to be able to serve our North American customers,” Atol Avion co-founder Anssi Rekula said in a statement released Tuesday.

The existing technology hub at the former air base, a workforce trained in advanced composites and proximity to water for testing aircraft are among the reasons the company chose Brunswick Landing, said Paul Richards, president of Atol USA.

“Importantly, is the infrastructure there for manufacturing and high-tech companies we can step in and leverage?” Richards said. “It is fabulous, from that perspective.”

The company will make the Atol 650, a two-passenger light sport aircraft. The planes have foldable wings and are capable of carrying a 600-pound load. They are designed to land on water, terrain and snow.

The Atol 650 will retail for about $179,000, and is marketed to “adventuresome, reasonably affluent customers,” Richards said in an interview Tuesday. The company will target customers who are not pilots but are interested in other motor sports and could get into flying a lightweight craft.

Getting certified to fly a light sport aircraft with a sports pilot’s license takes about half the time required for getting a private, or conventional, pilot’s license. Sports license pilots can only fly certain-sized aircraft in lower-altitude airspace, and can’t fly at night.

Atol USA will move into Hangar Four at the Brunswick Executive Airport and use space at TechPlace, its technology incubator. It intends to hire a small staff of five to 10 administrators and engineers as it obtains authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The company plans to employ up to 100 people when it ramps up to full production. Six planes are currently under production in Finland and 100 a year are expected to be built in Brunswick, Richards said. The company’s operation in Finland is expected to continue to make the planes for Europe and other global customers.

Atol USA joins a growing roster of aviation companies at Brunswick Landing that include aircraft manufacturers, maintenance companies and passenger carriers.

The Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, the agency that oversees the former Brunswick Naval Air Station, has invested heavily to attract operations like Atol, said Steve Levesque, the authority’s executive director.

The redevelopment authority is building an environmentally controlled composites layup room, curing oven and paint booth designed to aviation standards and sized for aircraft parts, Levesque said. Other assets include a precision machining facility, 3D printers and a composites engineering research lab. Other aviation companies operating from Brunswick Landing include One Aviation, Tempus Jets, Flight Level Aviation, MVP Aero, Brunswick Aviation Services and Maine Coastal Flight.

“We’ve taken what the Navy left us and elevated it a notch to attract aviation manufacturers,” Levesque said in a written statement.

There has always been an interest in good, reasonably affordable, well-functioning amphibious planes, said Barry Valentine, chairman of the Maine Aviation Business Association, a trade group launched at Brunswick Landing in 2013. Lake Aircraft produced amphibious planes similar to the ones designed by Atol for decades in Sanford before it was sold and relocated more than 20 years ago.

“There is nothing of significance out there in the market,” Valentine said.

Icon Aircraft, based in California, is currently producing a similar amphibious plane like the one Atol plans to build in Brunswick. The company delivered its first aircraft in 2015 and has received more than 1,800 deposits representing about $400 million in aircraft orders, according to its website.

“Clearly, based on the Icon experience, there is a market out there,” Valentine said.

Peter McGuire can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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