IMP Rolls Out First of Refurbished Auroras

IMP Aerospace president David Gossen, left, points out features of a newly upgraded Aurora military patrol aircafted to Defence Minister Peter MacKay and 14 Wing Greenwood commander Col. James Irvine during a ceremony at an IMP hanger at Stanfield International Airport on Friday. (PETER PARSONS / Staff)


IMP Group Ltd., the Halifax-based aerospace outfit, rolled out a refurbished CP-140 Aurora aircraft Friday, the first of 10 airplanes to be refitted as part of a $1.5-billion fleet overhaul. Inside the company’s cavernous four-storey airport hangar, the 30-year-old prototype belies its age. The sleek long-range patrol aircraft has received new wings, and a new lease on life. David Gossen, president of IMP Aerospace, said the overhaul of the first Aurora aircraft represents a “major milestone” for the firm.“The aircraft we see here meets the highest quality standards and is a testament to what Canadian industry is capable of developing and delivering,” he said. “This is a capability possessed by only a few companies in the world.”

The upgrades will extend the life of the Royal Canadian Air Force aircraft, first entered into service in 1981, by 15,000 flight hours. Jim Grant, vice-president of air mobility for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, said the combined efforts of the United States aerospace giant and IMP will extend the capability of the Aurora fleet for decades to come.

Lockheed Martin manufactured the aging fleet and is overseeing IMP’s refurbishment program. The refit will ensure the military has access to “reliable, safe, capable aircraft to support their missions.” “Whether it’s long-range surveillance, immigration control or search and rescue, that bird will be ready.”

Defence Minister Peter MacKay said the $1.5-billion program to upgrade 10 of the 18 Aurora aircraft underscores the federal government’s commitment to the Canadian military. “We rely on the Aurora’s capabilities, with its extensive range and endurance, to scan our coastlines, our vast swaths of ocean and the Arctic,” he said, noting that the program is on time and on budget.

Col. James Irvine, wing commander, 14 Wing Greenwood, said the upgrades address the fleet’s fatigue and corrosion issues that have hampered operations.

“This is crucial because this is an airplane that is very much in demand,” he said. “Our recent operational efforts in Libya, along with high demand for the airplane at home in our role protecting Canadian sovereignty, more than justifies the effort and resources expended in this modernization program.”

The aircraft’s new components are made of advanced alloys that offer a five-fold increase in corrosion resistance and a reduction in future maintenance costs. IMP has a workforce of more than 1,500 workers and numerous lucrative contracts. In addition to the Aurora upgrade for the Royal Canadian Air Force, IMP has been awarded other Defence Department contracts, including maintenance for Sea King helicopters and the Cormorant search and rescue fleet. It has also inked a contract with the Royal Norwegian Air Force to retrofit its fleet of six P-3 Orion aircraft.

Kevin Lemke, IMP’s senior director of fixed-wing production, is overseeing the refurbishment. “We’re replacing a lot of the major structure components of the aircraft so the entire horizontal stabilizer is replaced, the outer wings are replaced, the center wing we disassemble and do an inspection and replace the bottom surface,” he said.

Most of the major components come from Lockheed Martin. IMP is also upgrading the ancillary structure that attaches onto the wings and tales. “We take off the nacelles that hold the engines and do a complete rebuild,” Lemke.

The refit of the prototype took roughly 18 months, but each additional Aurora is expected to take 12 to 14 months. All 10 aircraft are expected to be upgraded by 2015.