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New customer for AAR in Duluth

Four Air Canada Airbus A319 aircraft fill the AAR facility in Duluth in June 2016. A new customer is being served at the hangar. (News Tribune file photo)

A new customer has landed at AAR Corp. in Duluth.

The aircraft maintenance company on Tuesday announced a new contract with Air Canada, whose planes had been serviced in Duluth since 2012.

"Air Canada has moved to another AAR facility in order for us to open space in Duluth for a new customer," local vice president of operations Mark Ketterer wrote in an email. "The change, when complete, will not have a negative impact on our Duluth operation, and in fact it may actually add 20 to 25 additional employees to Duluth."

Though the company is not yet announcing the name of the new customer as contract negotiations are ongoing, United Airlines seems a likely candidate.

In an email obtained by the News Tribune in a records request to the Duluth Airport Authority, Ketterer wrote to airport officials on May 2: "We are scheduled to receive our first United aircraft tonight at 22:15 from Chicago. We will be doing some engine runs for an hour or so and then bring them in the hangar."

"Please ask your tower folks to give the United crew some extra Minnesota nice, and welcome them to Duluth and AAR," Ketterer wrote.

Further emails obtained in the records request show the company has been working on a potential new customer in Duluth since at least early March.

A new airline in the AAR hangar may be good news for the airport's ongoing runway reconstruction, which had at times been held up by Air Canada's needs.

"I continue to be concerned that AC's requirements are a continuously moving target and unreasonably rigid," city of Duluth Chief Administrative Officer David Montgomery wrote to Ketterer in February, warning that "we are running the clock down" on ways to accommodate both AAR and the runway work at the city-owned airport.

Ketterer told the News Tribune on Tuesday that "we completed a seamless transfer from Air Canada to our new customer and have a full hangar."

As of 2016, AAR employed about 375 people in Duluth. An announcement on AAR's new customer is expected in the near future.

Air Canada and AAR agreed to a $406 million, 10-year contract that would see those planes serviced at a recently acquired facility in Quebec.

AAR on Tuesday reported a profit of $10.6 million on $439.2 million in sales for its fiscal quarter that ended Aug. 31. The Illinois-based company has picked up a number of new contracts throughout the year, including a $900 million Air Force deal and work with Hawaiian Airlines and Flydubai.

Brooks Johnson

Brooks is an investigative/enterprise reporter and business columnist at the Duluth News Tribune.

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