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From Site Selection magazine, January 2011

Flight Plan

The Joint Strike Fighter program adds lift to a regional aerospace sector.


ook past the Canadian Rockies and their travel and tourism draw, and even past Alberta's booming bituminous sands region, and you'll find Western Canada's next signature industry — aerospace.

Much of the sector's activity has to do with Canada's involvement since 1997 in the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) initiative, a fighter aircraft program supported by nine countries, including Canada and the U.S. The primary contractor of the F-35 is Lockheed Martin, but numerous aerospace companies, including several in Western Canada, have supporting roles. Canada's participation in the JSF partnership (worth about C$168 million thus far) guarantees these and other aerospace concerns around Canada access to competitive opportunities worth an estimated $12 billion.

Avcorp Industries Inc., Delta, B.C., for example, won a $500-million contract to produce 340 sets of wing tips for the F-35 Carrier Variant Outboard Wing that will lead to about 70 new jobs, according to Avcorp President Paul Kalil. Avcorp, which also operates a facility in Burlington, Ont., also builds airframe structures for Boeing, Bombardier, Cessna and other aircraft manufacturers.

Fellow B.C. company NGRAIN of Vancouver is developing 3D software technologies to support the design, assembly and maintenance of the F-35. The company produces the Virtual Damage Assessment and Repair Tracking software used by aircraft maintainers to record damage and repair information in 3D.

In Winnipeg, Man., the Bristol Aerospace Ltd. division of Magellan Aerospace Corp. is making complex aeroengine and composite assemblies for the F-35 Lightning II version of the Joint Strike Fighter.

All told, Western Canada is home to 450 aerospace companies with revenues of more than $4 billion and an employment base of more than 15,000 people, according to the Canada West Aerospace & Defence Industries Association. Following is a provincial breakdown of aerospace resources of interest to site seekers with a western Canadian location on their checklist:

British Columbia

  • The Aerospace Industry Association of British Columbia promotes the industry by acting as a watchdog, advocate and facilitator for its membership, ensuring that B.C. companies are as well placed as possible to take advantage of opportunities. These activities include an active program of government relations; developing business networking opportunities; and addressing and seeking solutions to problems affecting industry.


  • Aviation Alberta, a western Canadian regional association, works closely with its members, industry partners, government and military agencies to address the interests of those involved in the aviation, aerospace, airports and UVS (unmanned vehicle systems) industry sectors.
  • The Aerospace Engineering and Test Establishment, Cold Lake
  • The Canadian Centre for Unmanned Vehicle Systems, Medicine Hat
  • NATO Flying Training in Canada, Cold Lake


  • The Manitoba Aerospace Association (MAA) represents 40 aerospace companies and partners and facilitates sustainable worldwide business growth of Manitoba aerospace companies while also fostering responsible, collaborative community support. Its sister organization, the Manitoba Aerospace Human Resources Coordinating Committee (MAHRRC), assists companies in fostering business opportunities and attracting and developing a skilled work force to ensure globally competitive products and services.
  • The Canadian Environmental Test Research and Education Centre, Thompson
  • The Centre for Technology and Training, Winnipeg
  • Composites Innovation Centre, Winnipeg


  • Saskatchewan Aerospace & Defence Inc., an initiative of Enterprise Saskatchewan
  • The Canadian Light Source Synchrotron, Saskatoon
  • NATO Flying Training in Canada, Moose Jaw.

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