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‘Green aviation’ possible at Sawyer International

August 13, 2010
By JOHANNA BOYLE Journal Ishpeming Bureau

SAWYER - Sawyer International Airport is, obviously, the place to go in Marquette County to catch a plane to leave the area and go somewhere else.

But in the future, it may be the place planes come to be dismantled after their useful lifespan.

A collaboration between the Six County Employment Alliance, Sawyer International Airport and the Delta County Airport Renaissance Zone is working to put together the Upper Michigan Green Aviation Coalition, which will promote a "cluster" of businesses at Sawyer focused on recycling aircraft.

"We want to have a major impact on the waste of aircraft parts," said Paul Arsenault, chairman of the Six County Employment Alliance. "This is important for Marquette County to continue the development at Sawyer because it's going to provide jobs and income for the airport.

Some 400 to 500 are decommissioned in the United States each year, Arsenault said, with the UMi-GAC hoping to eliminate 20 percent of what enters landfills from that decommissioning each year.

Currently one business in the anticipated cluster, Aircraft Deconstructors Inc., is working to negotiate the lease of lease of two hangars at Sawyer for dismantling and recycling activities.

Originally created as the Sawyer Aero-Tech Dismantling and Recycling Center in 2007, the UMi-GAC recently submitted a proposal to the Small Business Adminstration for a $500,000 grant to provide services like business counseling, training and technology transfer for the businesses within the cluster to help get the center up and running.

Although not required for the SBA grant, the green focus of the cluster was chosen because the concept had been in the works for several years, Arsenault said.

The cluster will focus on recycling aircraft of all sizes from around the country, researching and developing new recycling processes and commercializing green aviation technologies.

"This is a specialized industry," Arsenault said. "There are very few in the United States."

Although airplanes contain metals and other substances that can be recycled, cluster partners - Negaunee Iron and Metal and Michigan Technological University - have already been at work developing processes that will allow for the recycling of airplane seats, which have not previously been recyclable.

"It's cutting-edge technology," Arsenault said.

Included so far in UMi-GAC are Delta, Houghton and Marquette counties; Telkite Enterprises, one of the early interests in the Sawyer recycling center; Aircraft Deconstructors; Northern Wing Repair; Negaunee Iron and Metal; REL Inc.; Creative Composite Concepts and Constructions; the Upper Peninsula Economic Developers Alliance; as well as several universities around the Upper Peninsula.

Arsenault said the cluster hoped to create hundreds of jobs by promoting the partner businesses besides being able to save landfills from being filled by used aircraft.

Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her e-mail address is



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