Taking off again.

Published 3:17 pm Wednesday, February 4, 2004

By By Arthur McLean Managing Editor
If you see military helicopters being trucked into Atmore, it's not for military exercises, it's new business for a returning company.
Blast-off Inc. recently moved it's overflow business in refurbishing military helicopters to it's once dormant Atmore facility.
Tom Meacham, the company's owner, said the overflow and future business should mean about 10 new jobs for Atmore over at least the next two years and possibly longer.
Meacham said Blast-off, which is now located in Troy, scored a contract refurbishing military helicopters for foreign deployment. There's enough work, that Meacham was able to bring some of it back to Atmore.
"We've already hired four people and we could be hiring about six more," Meacham said. The company is also expanding it's physical operations near the airport to handle the extra work. The company is already expanding a paint booth building and plans to enclose another building to store parts. In all, about $100,000 or more is expected to be invested in construction work and materials in town.
The current contract is bringing in Bell 206, or OH-58 helicopters in by truck, stripping their paint, checking and repairing the airframe, applying new anti-corrosion coatings and repainting the helicopters in a new paint scheme.
Meacham said he has no idea where the helicopters are headed.
After to the current work, the company will also begin working on "Huey" helicopters, of the design used during the Vietnam War. Meacham said more than 30 of those will be refurbished here in Atmore. 2-year contract with border patrol
"The beauty of a small town like Atmore, is that you can get good, talented people who are willing to work hard for good pay," Meacham said. "Good mechanics and artisans in the aviation business can make pretty good money."
Blast-off Inc. is also partnered with the Sikorsky helicopter manufacuturer to create an expanded version of the Blackhawk helicopter by rebuilding used airframes.
Meacham said the Atmore operation should also get some of the work from that project in the form of refurbishing some of the airframe component that go on the helicopters.
That project will involve 1,500 Blackhawks over a five-year period. Atmore will be refurbishing the composite components for airframe
Walking into the company's hangar, three Bell helicopters sat in various stages of completion, from one that was stripped of all paint, to one that sate, ready to be shipped, painted in a jungle camoflage.
Meacham was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. "When you look at them all painted up like that together, it makes you think you're really going somewhere," he said.
Meacham said he hopes this work with the OH-58s is only the start for his Atmore operation. "Our goal is to bring as much work to Atmore as possible, and bring as many jobs to Atmore as possible."

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