Santa Rosa County joined Leonardo to break ground on a new, state-of-the-art customer support center at Whiting Aviation Park in Milton. A groundbreaking ceremony was held today, Jul. 28, with other partners from Space Florida, Triumph Gulf Coast, the state of Florida and the United States Navy. Construction will now officially begin on this highly anticipated helicopter support center at Whiting Aviation Park, a site immediately adjacent to Naval Air Station Whiting Field (NASWF).
"This is a historic moment for the U.S. Navy and Santa Rosa County. This project is the culmination of more than two decades of work and cooperation to support the mission of NAS Whiting Field and the men and women training to be the pilots of tomorrow,” said Colton Wright, Santa Rosa County Commissioner, District 5, and Board of County Commissioners Chairman. “I'm so thankful to Leonardo for their commitment and making the investment in Santa Rosa County to build a facility to perform maintenance and overhaul on the TH-73 helicopter. We value Leonardo's team and their partnership in producing the best pilots in the world...right here in our backyard."
Santa Rosa County was awarded $8.5 million in funding from Triumph Gulf Coast to build infrastructure on 40 acres at the Whiting Aviation Park, a 269-acre development adjacent to Naval Air Station Whiting Field, where all helicopter pilots for the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard are trained. A first-of-its-kind limited-access-use agreement between Santa Rosa County and the Navy allows Whiting Aviation Park’s civilian tenants to use the runway and control tower at Whiting Field.
"Leonardo is just the beginning for Whiting Aviation Park," said Shannon Ogletree, Santa Rosa Economic Development Director. "The park is uniquely positioned for aviation-related operations, and we are talking to several prospective companies interested in possibly locating here."
The Leonardo Helicopters Florida Support Center will be 113,000 sq/ft and include four large hangar bays, major component repair and overhaul, transmission work that will include Dynamic Test Bench, a full-sized paint booth and all associated tooling and equipment. In addition, a large parts warehouse will also be co-located to enable a more efficient supply chain response for the US Navy’s TH-73 fleet at NASWF as well as for commercial customers operating throughout the Gulf of Mexico. The Leonardo Helicopters Florida Support Center is slated to be completed by the end of 2024.
"We are thrilled to break ground at Whiting Aviation Park on Leonardo Helicopters' new Florida Support Center," said Clyde Woltman, Chief Executive Officer of Leonardo Helicopters US. "With this modern and highly efficient facility, Leonardo Helicopters will be able to bring its industry-leading product support services even closer to our customers. We would not be here today without the constant partnership and support of the state of Florida, Space Florida, Santa Rosa County, Triumph Gulf Coast and the United States Navy."
The announcement of Leonardo's intention to build a helicopter support center at Whiting Aviation Park came in 2019 pending its aircraft being selected for the U.S. Navy’s Advanced Helicopter Training System, the Navy’s comprehensive program to replace its aging fleet of TH-57 “Sea Rangers” that operate from NASWF. In January 2020, the United States Navy selected a variant of the Leonardo AW119, now named the TH-73 “Thrasher”, to serve as the primary training aircraft for the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Coast Guard as well as other allied nations. The first aircraft was delivered to the US Navy in June of 2021 and in July, with the support of Santa Rosa County and Triumph Gulf Coast, Leonardo opened a temporary hangar at Peter Prince Airport to gain its FAA Part 145 certification and begin repair work while a larger, permanent facility was being designed and developed at Whiting. Since that time, Leonardo has hired 19 full-time employees in Santa Rosa County.
To better serve the needs of this fleet and more than 1,000 Leonardo aircraft that are operating throughout the Gulf of Mexico and Central America, the Company worked closely with partners at Santa Rosa County and Space Florida to select a site at Whiting Aviation Park, a commercial aviation park immediately adjacent to NASWF, for its new comprehensive customer support facility. Located on 267 acres of industrially zoned land owned by Santa Rosa County, the Whiting Aviation Park features a “first of its kind” limited access use agreement between Santa Rosa County and the US Navy, allowing tenants of the park to have access to NASWF’s 6,000 ft. runway and air traffic control. With financing through Space Florida, Leonardo will be investing over $65,000,000 into the construction, fit-out and tooling for this new facility.
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Leonardo, a global high-technology company, is among the top world players in Aerospace, Defense and Security and Italy’s main industrial company. Organized into five business divisions, Leonardo has a significant industrial presence in Italy, the United Kingdom, Poland, the USA and Israel where it also operates through subsidiaries that include Leonardo DRS (defense electronics), and joint ventures and partnerships: ATR, MBDA, Telespazio, Thales Alenia Space and Avio. Leonardo competes in the most important international markets by leveraging its areas of technological and product leadership (Helicopters, Aircraft, Aerostructures, Electronics, Cyber & Security Solutions and Space). Listed on the Milan Stock Exchange (LDO), in 2022 Leonardo recorded consolidated revenues of €14.7 billion and invested €2 billion in Research and Development. The company has been part of the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI) since 2010 and has been confirmed among the global sustainability leaders in 2022. Leonardo is also included in the MIB ESG index.