Project Alpha revealed: North American Aerospace Industries eyeing Tallahassee airport

From the Tallahassee Democrat

North American Aerospace Industries — specializing in aircraft teardown and recycling  — is the mystery company behind Project Alpha.

Tallahassee International Airport director David Pollard revealed the company’s name during Wednesday’s City Commission meeting, a day after the Tallahassee Democrat published an article about the project that could become the largest job creator in the capital city airport’s history.

Mayor John Dailey hailed the project and other industries circling around setting up shop at Tallahassee’s airport as “phenomenal,” noting the $616 million in projected economic impact.

“This isn’t just a gamechanger for the city and county, this is a regional gamechanger,”  he said.

Headquartered in Kinston, North Carolina, the company is an industry leader for sustainable aircraft recycling of equipment, including interiors and seats.

With an average retirement rate of more than 600 aircraft per year, the company reports the U.S. is the largest market for aircraft recycling. Company officials say the U.S. market is experiencing an increase of at least 10% to 15% due to the coronavirus pandemic.

NAAI has a proprietary process for recycling and upcycling through its approach and partnership with sister company Aircraft Interiors Recycling Association (AIRA) based in the UK, which also has a teardown operation in place in Dubai.

The company’s website states its processes make North American Aerospace Industries “the only company in the world that can dispose of 100 percent of a commercial jetliner without putting any materials in landfills.”

In a Q&A interview with Airport Industry Review, NAAI CEO Sven Daniel Koechler said there are huge boneyards throughout Europe, the United States and other countries.

Those boneyards are filling up fast. So, he said, establishing new aircraft parking locations is becoming increasingly difficult because of the environmental aspect.

“Spare parts reused immediately after an aircraft’s final journey retain the highest value in the marketplace,” Koechler said in the interview. “We take them out pretty fast and ship them back to the owner. Sustainability is also a major point for us. Almost nothing of the aircraft is going to waste so we upcycle almost everything.”

If Project Alpha moves forward, the company will be the first of its kind to relocate to the capital city.

Pollard said the city is still working through the negotiation process and Space Florida as “we piece this together.” It is unclear at this time what type or how much in incentives may be offered to the company to entice them to the capital city.

“They are working to develop agreements behind the scenes. This is an international company that is working on many different fronts to pull this together,” Pollard told the Democrat. “They’ve got some other locations out there as well. They really have a vision for the 100 percent recycling of aircrafts. From that standpoint, it’s something that continues to evolve.”

Pollard also noted that the company would be working with a “reputable developer,” Western LLC, that would do the construction.

He describes the pending agreement with North American Aerospace Industries as an “exciting opportunity.”

Plans call for a minimum land lease of 57 acres and the construction of three buildings at Tallahassee International Airport that represent a $110 million capital investment and $30 million in new revenue at the airport.

Job count linked to Project Alpha

If the company makes a deal with Tallahassee’s airport, it’s slated to generate 985 permanent jobs and 1,443 temporary construction jobs.

It may spur a $450 million total economic impact, according to a report by Florida State University’s Center for Economic Forecasting and Analysis.

The airport is undergoing a massive transformation as construction is already underway to build a $28 million International Processing Facility.

That, along with Project Alpha and a $35 million proposal by Burrell Aviation Tallahassee, LLC, to lease and build at the airport, represents nearly $175 million in new projects in the next few years.

The International Processing Facility is slated to be complete by 2024. Once it is, officials said the airport’s $599 million economic impact in Tallahassee and the region is projected to reach $1 billion.

Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Sue Dick, who sits on the airport advisory board, said Project Alpha represents the economic development opportunity that aligns with the airport’s strategic planning.

“A regional economic asset located in Northwest Florida, investors and industry leaders recognize the opportunities available at our airport for private/public sector partnerships leveraging assets including land, world-class higher educational institutions, technical training programs and a committed business community,” Dick said in a statement. “Florida’s capital city is a community that industry wants to invest in, creating jobs for our future workforce.”

Contact TaMaryn Waters at or follow @TaMarynWaters on Twitter.