Midwest Aircraft Refinishing, Inc. (MAR) is an eight-year old company with roots being developed within Cirrus Aircraft, one of the world’s most innovative aircraft manufacturers.  MAR is located at Range Regional Airport and specializes in repairing and refinishing of aircraft with composite skin.

The principals of Midwest Aircraft Refinishing, Inc. all started careers with Cirrus Aircraft in Duluth; possessing over 35 years of combined direct industry experience.

While employed at Cirrus during the week, weekends were spent refinishing aircraft in a hangar at the Range Regional Airport.  This work helped to alleviate Cirrus’ unmet refinishing demand.  Aircraft owners were seeking refreshed paint and other bodywork at the factory.  But, facing its own production demands, Cirrus chose to focus instead on production of new aircraft, not refinishing used ones.

Recognizing an opportunity to meet this refinishing demand, Kris Carlson, George Virnig, and Ross Robillard decided to establish Midwest Aircraft Refinishing, Inc. in late 2009.  Cirrus executives Bill King and Dale Klapmeier encouraged the fledgling company by making their paint facility at the Range Regional Airport available at a very favorable lease rate.

A Cirrus plane is manufactured using composite materials exclusively for its skin.  This is a major differentiator for Cirrus aircraft and has significant advantages in strength and durability over conventional metal skin.  Composite materials require unique and specialized refinishing processes.  MAR claims the highest level of expertise in the field of composite refinishing and repair.  This expertise was developed from years of Cirrus’ training and work with composite materials.  As an authorized Cirrus Service Center, service bulletins, training opportunities, and corporate support are received routinely and help to keep the work processes and product knowledge current.

MAR has experienced rapid growth over the past eight plus years.  Initial work was custom aircraft interiors, composite repairs, modifications, and paint on conventional aluminum planes. Since the quality is recognized as being superior to that obtained at the factory, MAR has sometimes painted brand new airplanes. Other owners merely want a customized paint scheme.

However, with only 14,000 square feet of current production space, paint booth limitations and limited accessibility for the next larger class of aircraft due to door height, demand for MAR’s services far exceeds the capacity of the facility.  Service backlogs routinely are over one year, while larger, more profitable aircraft are being turned away because they are unable to fit through the current facility’s doors.

MAR proposes to expand the facility by almost 10,000 square feet and to add state-of-the-art equipment.  This expansion will help alleviate the backlog and provide the ability to accommodate a whole new class of larger aircraft.  In order to carry out the expansion plans, MAR will hire and train ten (10) new employees over the next two years.  In addition to the facility, a 20-car parking lot and expanded apron for additional aircraft parking is also being constructed.

The Industry

MAR’s specialty is exceptional quality, state-of-the-art work on composite airplanes.  Composite aircraft skin is lighter and stronger than conventional aluminum skin.  Aircraft built with this advanced material accounts for an increasing share of the market.

In 2014, there were a total of 986 single-engine piston aircraft manufactured worldwide, according to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association.  Of this total, 532, or 54%, were built with composite material.  Cirrus Aircraft was responsible for building 308 of those airplanes, or 58% of total worldwide composite production.  This technology continues to gain market share in the aircraft industry.  Composite skins require non-traditional repair and refinishing techniques. MAR has specialized in Cirrus aircraft refinishing and is the “go to” fix for major structural composite repair.

Currently, there are no other aircraft paint shops that specialize in composite aircraft with the experience and competitive pricing as MAR.  This painting process is completely different than painting a conventional aluminum airplane.  Since composite airplanes have only been in existence for about 17 years, the refinishing industry for these airplanes is in its infancy.  MAR has an advantage over traditional paint shops and has been working almost exclusively with composite aircraft our whole careers.  Midwest Aircraft Refinishing, Inc. intends to maintain its position as the most sought-after aircraft refinisher in the industry.

The Business Operation

MAR restores aircraft that are either worn out or dated making them look and feel better than new, inside and out.  MAR offers customization not normally available on new aircraft, including occasionally customizing relatively new planes to suit the owner’s unique style requirements.  Like an auto-body shop, MAR also repairs damage on aircraft after an incident or accident.  Since MAR’s relationships with airplane factories enable them to remain abreast of the most current repair methods and techniques, repair standards always meet, and usually exceed, the original manufacturer’s repair and refinishing specifications.

MAR’s services include anything from homebuilt kit airplanes to business jets. Unlike autos, aircraft have a very long lifespan. Since aircraft are required by law to be maintained properly and without having to endure the damaging effects of salt corrosion, it is not uncommon for a 50-year-old aircraft to still be flying as though it was new.  Consequently, almost every aircraft will need refurbishing at some point during its extended lifespan.

MAR’s core clients are Cirrus owners.  Cirrus builds roughly 300 propeller airplanes each year, with plans to build a significant number of jets in addition to the propeller planes. Every year, the Cirrus refinishing market becomes larger given that their production rate is significantly greater than the current restoration rate.  MAR also services non-Cirrus aircraft and are building a great reputation among that clientele as well.  And since aircraft are very mobile, these clients travel great distances domestically and internationally to obtain MAR’s services.

Project Cost & Funding

The total cost of the Aircraft Paint Facility Expansion Project is estimated at $2 million.  Funding sources will include the Iron Range Resource and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB), MN Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), MN/DOT Office of Aeronautics and the Chisholm-Hibbing Airport Authority.

Project Schedule

The design has been completed and the bids will be received in April.  It is anticipated construction will begin in late summer of 2018 with completion by year’s end. Construction jobs estimated at 50.

Check out MAR’s website and photo gallery of past projects

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