NORMAN — Commander Aircraft Corp. will establish a service and manufacturing headquarters at the University of Oklahoma’s Max Westheimer Airport.
The announcement follows a nine-month search in four states for the best hangar location. The Oklahoma Commerce Department led a statewide competitive site search for a new location for the Commander plant.
Commander was once headquartered at Wiley Post Airport in Bethany, but left the state for Cape Girardeau, Mo., in 2005 after its lease at Wiley Post expired and it was unable to find new hangar space.
“Aerospace is thriving in our state, and Commander’s decision to come back to Oklahoma underscores our reputation for being the best place in the U.S. to do business,” Gov. Mary Fallin said in a statement. “We are a state that celebrates our new businesses, and we understand the importance of encouraging and supporting our existing businesses. Today’s announcement will mean more jobs and opportunities for Oklahomans in an industry that offers good, high-paying jobs.”
Commander estimates the new facility will employ 75 to 100 people by its third year of operations. The company will occupy two hangars at Max Westheimer at the University of Oklahoma’s north campus off North Flood Avenue, the Commerce Department said Monday. Commander plans to expand one of the hangars by an additional 50,000 to 70,000 square feet.
A group of about 50 Commander Aircraft owners pooled their assets to purchase the company for $1.7 million in June 2005 after the company filed bankruptcy.
The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy again in 2011 after a planned sale of the company to Montreal-based Aero-Base Inc. failed to close.
Bankruptcy court records show that investor Borui Mao purchased Commander in September for $633,000 after a private auction.
“Commander Aircraft was born in Oklahoma, and our focus has always been to get back to the state where Commander was well known and respected,” Mao, general manager of Commander, said in a statement. “We are pleased to team up with the University of Oklahoma and look forward to manufacturing our airplane in Norman.”